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Reporters Without Borders regrets Realtid’s settlement with EEW

Reporters Without Borders regrets Realtid’s settlement with EEW

On Friday, Realtid published an apology to businessman Svante Kumlin in connection with three articles dealing with the operations of his company, Eco Energy World. At the same time, the lawsuit against the Realtid editor-in-chief and the two freelance journalists who wrote the articles was dropped.

Realtid has entered into a settlement with Swedish businessman Svante Kumlin and his company Eco Energy World (EEW). According to the settlement, Svante Kumlin must pay Realtid an undisclosed amount of money for Realtid to publish an apology to him and his company for the damage caused by the content of three of the newspaper’s articles.

On Friday, January 13, the apology was posted above the articles On the Realtid website. You read:

Following the publication of this and other articles about Mr. Comlin, and following the decision of the legal action, Realtid would like to clarify that the article is not intended to imply that Mr. Comlin, either directly or through any of the companies mentioned, has engaged in any wrongful conduct. We would like to apologize to Mr. Kumlin for any personal distress caused to him through our reports.We are pleased to be able to resolve Mr. Kumlin’s complaint through this clarification, apology, and save what is described in this statement in relation to Mr. Kumlin and his activities.We stand by our reporting of these articles. and related articles, and we have not made any modifications to their content.”

At the same time, no content in the articles was changed, although alleged errors in Realtid’s review of his company EEW led Svante Kumlin in December 2020 to choose to sue the paper’s editor-in-chief, Camilla Johnson, and freelance journalists Annelie Östlund and Per Agerman in Great Britain. something like Reporters Without Borders condemned himCensorship Index, Article 19 and Media Defense and the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as misuse of legal methods to intimidate and silence journalists, or a strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP).

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When in March 2021 the British court began hearing Svante Komelin’s case, RSF together with the Swedish Journalists Syndicate, the Publishing Club, the Swedish PEN and 20 international organizations also expressed their concern. Solidarity with these three journalists. Only after more than 13 months of negotiations did British judge Svante Komlin dismiss the suit on ten of the 13 counts.

The ruling in May 2021 means that the court did not consider that there were grounds for defamation action in five of the eight articles about EEW and Svante Kumlin, which were published by Realtid in the fall of 2020. Along with the censorship index Reporters Without Borders also expressed concern Swedish journalists will have to defend themselves for the content of the remaining three articles.

Rather than defend the content of the three articles reviewed by the press, Realtid’s board of directors and CEO have now decided to enter into a settlement with Svante Kumlin. Something Reporters Without Borders regrets.

– As the owner of a Swedish newspaper in Sweden, with a strong global freedom of the press and a well-functioning media ethics system, it is weak for Realtid’s board and CEO to choose to compromise in this case. The owners clearly do not trust the appointed editor-in-chief and freelancers, but they run the risk of heavy fines and heavy legal costs. This does not bode well for the future, says Eric Halkyr, RSF’s Sweden chief, because Comlin’s actions may encourage others to try to legally threaten journalists and the media to silence them.

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The apology published by Realtid regarding articles whose content was not legally tested must be unique in the history of modern Swedish journalism. Reporters Without Borders notes the low level of press freedom in Sweden.

The photo is from May 12, 2022 when Reporters Without Borders organized a seminar on SLAPP. Pictured are Erik Halkyer, Head of Reporters Without Borders Sweden, and Anele Ostlund, journalist for Realtid.

Photo: Katarina Carlsson

Correction: The apology was posted to Realtid on Friday, January 13th, and nothing else. In a previous version that came out as a press release, it was also stated that the settlement took place without the intervention of the concerned journalists, which is wrong, but as an independent journalist it is difficult to influence decisions of this kind, which are made by the owner of the newspaper.