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Turkish embassy tries to muzzle Swedish media

Newsline: Turkish embassy tries to muzzle Swedish media –

According to (with the video link) ahead of Sunday evening’s scheduled broadcast of a documentary titled “Seyfo 1915 – The Assyrian Genocide,” TV4 said it received an email from Turkish embassy press officer Arif Gulen, in which he opposes the film’s use of the term “genocide,” which is often used to describe the tragic death of as many as 275,000 Assyrians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during WWI.

The Turkish embassy in Stockholm tried to bring pressure to bear over a TV4 documentary, according to TV4’s programme director, Viveka Hansson. Hansson, in a statement on the T4 website, said that she had been sent an e-mail by Arif Gulen, the press officer at the Turkish embassy, asking her to “reconsider the decision” to broadcast a documentary tonight about the slaughter by the Ottoman Empire of Armenians and other minorities that occurred during the First World War.

Turkey has long rejected claims that the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 should be classified as a genocide. Hansson dismissed the request out of hand. “We can never accept this. We will protest against any attempt to exert pressure that threatens freedom of expression.,” Hansson said.

Speaking to Expressen, Gulen said that he had “full respect for freedom of expression and for the channel,” but refused to retract his plea to TV4 to withdraw the documentary piece.

“These are my feelings. It is their decision. I don’t know if they will change it. They can transmit it, if they want. But I can say what I feel, too,” he said, as cited by Expressen.

Hanson said that the message’s polite tone should not deceive the public, pointing out that while “the email is polite, the message cannot be mistaken.” She sees the request as an attempt to prevent a Swedish media outlet from broadcasting an opinion that “the Turkish embassy would not appreciate,” according to Expressen.

Swedish MP and Left Party chairman Jonas Sjöstedt also weighed in on the mounting controversy, urging the Swedish government to fend off Turkey’s attack on the national media.

“It is unacceptable that the country [Turkey] is seeking to silence media in Sweden and it [the government] must take a hard stance against such actions,” he said, adding that Stockholm should recall its ambassador from Turkey “to make clear that what you are doing in Turkey, which is very bad for the media, you cannot do in Sweden,” according to Expressen.

Hansson also pointed out in her statement that the attack on TV4 comes just days after Sweden’s Green Party tried to hush up another Swedish station, SVT, which broadcast a story critical of Sweden’ former housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, who is a Green Party member of Turkish origin. The party’s press officer, Magnus Johansson, reportedly called on SWT to drop the coverage of Kaplan’s case, while offering to provide the station with access to the party’s top bosses for a story on Green Party candidate Yasri Khan, who is under fire for his unwillingness to shake hands with a female host from TV4.

“I did not actually believe my ears. I have never seen anything similar from a representative of a political party in Sweden,”said Anders Holmberg, an SVT presenter.

Kaplan resigned last Monday amid allegations that he has ties to the Turkish ultra-nationalist Gray Wolves movement and the retired head of the Turkish National Association of Sweden, Barbaros Leylani, who has previously called on the Turkish people to kill “Armenian dogs.”

Meanwhile, an orchestra in Germany has accused Turkey of forcing it to change the name of a concert it is scheduled to give on April 30, as well as remove a piece from its program that calls the massacre of Armenians a genocide.

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