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Via a survey made by SVT Nyheter, eight of Sweden’s largest media organizations were asked if they had ever been contacted by the Chinese embassy. Foto: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/AP

China’s large-scale media push: Attempts to influence Swedish media

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Through the Chinese ambassador in Sweden, the Chinese government has been in contact with media companies in Sweden on several occasions, in an attempt to influence publications, according to a survey made by SVT Nyheter (Swedish national television).

Via a survey made by SVT Nyheter, eight of Sweden’s largest media organizations were asked if they had ever been contacted by the Chinese embassy, and if such contacts included attempts to pressure the media company. Four media companies – Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Sveriges Radio, and Sveriges Television – stated that they had been contacted by the Chinese embassy on several occasions, and that they, for instance, had been criticized on their publications, both by letters and e-mails.

The media company Svenska Dagbladet, had been contacted on several occasions in the past two years, including via e-mails directly from the Chinese ambassador to Sweden. Several times, China and the Chinese ambassador had criticized the media company’s publications regarding the conditions in China. Individual reporters also reported having been subjected to criticism.

The tabloid Expressen had received several letters and e-mails from the embassy, e-mails containing criticism and threatening formulations regarding the coverage of the Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, who has been imprisoned in China since 2015. Formulations such as “media tyranny” could be found in the e-mails.

Meetings and lunches

Several of the news companies consider the contacts as attempts to unduly influence the media. The Chinese ambassador has also invited several of the reporters at Aftonbladet, Sveriges Television, and Svenska Dagbladet to personal meetings and lunches. During such meetings, the Chinese ambassador has commented on the journalistic coverage of China.

Towards the end of November, Sveriges Radio noticed that the Chinese embassy, on it’s website, in the past year, had published 74 negative notations on mainly Swedish media, but also on politicians and scientific reports. The comments were mostly made in relation to publications containing some form of criticism against China.

Hungarian criticism

Two of the eight media companies that received the survey have not answered. Only one of the approached media companies, the newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet, said that it is unaware of any contacts made by the Chinese ambassador. However, the paper was recently approached by the Hungarian ambassador to Sweden, who had comments on one of the paper’s columns about Hungary.    

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