BBC News, Feb. 10, 2006
The Swedish government has moved to shut down the website of a far-right political party’s newspaper over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The site’s host, Levonline, pulled the plug on the website of the Swedish Democrats’ SD-Kuriren newspaper after consulting with the government.
It is believed to be the first time a Western government has intervened to block a publication in the growing row.
Kuriren editor Richard Jomshof said the government was breaking the law.
“We have to do something about it. This is illegal. They can’t do this just because we are a small magazine,” he told the BBC News website.
The Swedish Democrats are a small anti-immigrant party with no representatives in parliament, but a few local elected officials.
Jomshof said the newspaper had a print run of about 30,000.
Call for cartoons
He had asked readers to send in their own Muhammad cartoons, but he denies intending to offend Muslims.
His website briefly posted a picture showing Muhammad from the rear, looking into a mirror, with his eyes blacked out — an image he said was about self-censorship.
“It was directed at the Swedish government and Swedish magazines,” Jomshof said.
“They are cowards for not standing by the Danish people and Jyllands-Posten [Danish newspaper which first published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad last year].”
Muslims around the world have demonstrated against the cartoons since they were republished in a number of European newspapers at the end of January.
Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds described Kuriren’s move as “a provocation” by “a small group of extremists”.
“I will defend freedom of the press no matter what the circumstances, but I strongly condemn the provocation by SD-Kuriren. It displays a complete lack of respect,” she said in a statement.
Site back up
Levonline CEO Turkel Nyberg told the BBC News website his company had pulled the plug on the site after discussions with the foreign ministry and the security police.
“It seemed like it could be a bad for us and for others to have the site up. The problem was the content, which was these Muhammad pictures,” he said.
He said he had been told by the government that Arab media were carrying reports about SD-Kuriren’s call for cartoons about Muhammad.
Sweden — which opposed the war in Iraq and is a leading donor to the Middle East — has largely avoided becoming the target of Muslim anger over the cartoons.
The SD-Kuriren website is currently back online via a back-up server.
“All they did was close down some links to the server. We have other links that are still working,” Jomshof said.