Swedish journalist beaten up by intruder

by Christian Schult and Jane Whyatt

Freelance journalist Håkan Slagbrand woke up early on Monday morning, 15 May, to find an intruder in his home in Västeras, Sweden. The man attacked and beat him. It is believed the motive for the attack may be connected to Slagbrand’s investigation into suspected financial crimes in late 2016.

Vasteras Sweden 900X600 Residential area in Västerås harbour. Brorsson, Östermälarstand Västerås, CC BY-SA 3.0

Slagbrand has reported the attack to the local police, who are investigating. This is the second attack against the reporter in a short period of time. His car was set on fire in the first attack on 21 April 2017.

Västerås is the sixth largest city in Sweden and is situated in the Mälardalen region, 100 km northwest of Stockholm. Slagbrand's case is believed to be the first time ever that the police force of Västeras has had to inquire into an alleged violation of press freedom.

Local newspaper reports describe Slagbrand's attacker. He was disguised as a decorator who rang the reporter's doorbell, speaking in English and claiming he had been booked to do painting work in his garage. The reporter told him he doesn't have one, and that it was probably a misunderstanding.

He asked the "painting worker" to get back to his boss and closed his front door. According to reports, the attacker then showed up on the reporter's terrace. It was when the reporter opened the terrace door that he got beaten up.

Daniel Nordström, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper VLT, called it "a serious attack on freedom of expression".

And across the lake at the other regional newspaper, Ekuriren, reporter Mathias Ståhle told the ECPMF:

Håkan is a crime correspondent. He could not identify the attacker, so we do not know if this is connected to his articles about tax deductions. But it is an educated guess".

Ståhle commented that this was the first time he had ever used the tag "press freedom:  on a news story, and he hoped it would be the last time.

Sweden has a good reputation for press and media freedom. It is ranked the second "freest" country in the world - behind Norway - by to the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index.