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Sweden Shuts Down Site Showing Cartoons

From Sweden’s news site, The Local:

Säpo stops Muhammad cartoon site

10th February 2006

The website of the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) reopened on Friday morning, after the far-right party removed drawings of the prophet Muhammad. The site had been taken down by its hosting company after requests from Sweden’s foreign ministry and security service, Säpo.

The hosting company, Levonline, says its block on the Sweden Democrats’ site and that of its newspaper SD-Kuriren remains in place. The party’s secretary, Björn Söder, says the site has been reopened by moving it to another server, although the pictures of Muhammad have been removed.

“We have done this with the safety of Swedish citizens abroad in mind,” Söder said.

At the time of writing, however, the site was not loading.

Söder had been contacted on Thursday afternoon by Levonline’s deputy CEO Anna Larsson, who told him that threats had been received against her company and its staff and she therefore wanted him to move his party’s website.

“It didn’t sound plausible that threats would have been made against a website hosting company and its staff – the threats should really have been made against us, who published the pictures, “ said Söder.

“I was later told by a journalist at Dagens Nyheter that [Larsson] had changed her story, and more or less admitted that the foreign ministry and Säpo had been applying pressure.”

The Sweden Democrats are instructing lawyers who will investigate Levonline’s actions, he said.

“We have followed the rules, and not broken any Swedish laws, and yet they close us down without notice. This is a clear case of breach of contract.”

“I also think it’s very peculiar that we weren’t contacted by the security services, and been informed about the threat.”

The Sweden Democrats and SD-Kuriren have received threats following the publication of the pictures.

“Threats have been made, chiefly against the paper’s editor, Richard Jomshof. He has also been called by Swedes abroad who are concerned for their safety,” Söder said.

Levonline’s Anna Larsson confirmed in an interview with Swedish Radio that the foreign ministry and the security service were behind the closing of the party’s website.

“We have been in touch with both the foreign ministry and Säpo, and in discussion with them have decided that this is the best thing to do,” she said.

Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds denied on Friday that the government had applied pressure on Levonline.

"If someone closes down their site, or if a newspaper decides to do so in some way, then that is their own decision, based I hope on the information that they have received. I hope that we have been able to provide information," she said.

Säpo’s director general, Klas Bergenstrand, said that agents had been in contact with the company and "forwarded our threat assessment to those who are responsible for the technical side of things."

Bergenstrand refused to release details of the threat assessment to the press.

"Those who are affected know what it is. We don’t make details of that kind of threat situation public," he said.

In another development, the Hezbollah-owned TV station al-Manar, which had reported that Sweden had insulted Muhammad, was on Friday playing down the reports.

"We’re not doing any more about that. We’ve spoken to Swedish diplomat and now know that the Swedish government wad not behind the competition for caricatures of Muhammad. This is a dead story," duty reporter Dia abu Taam told TT’s correspondent Stefan Hjertén.

It all serves to make one remember what a thin veneer our rights actually are. If threats from a bunch of Moslem fanatics can make Sweden abandon its freedom of the press, what freedoms are safe?

And yes, it seems that the site is still down.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, February 10th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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