Swedish state broadcaster SVT has come under fire for what some viewers are calling an effort to downplay the horrendous details of the murders of two Scandinavian backpackers in Morocco last week.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway were killed while backpacking in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. While both girls were stabbed multiple times, one of them was also beheaded on camera, shown in a video that has spread like wildfire around social media.
Previously recorded footage, which was authenticated by investigators, also shows the suspects in the brutal double murder pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, further confirming that the murders were an act of terrorism.
Memorial to the slain backpackers at Danish embassy © Reuters / Youssef Boudlal
On Christmas Eve, the national public broadcaster in Sweden aired a report about the barbaric killings, but chose not to focus on the actual details of the crime or the now-established links to Islamic terrorism. The SVT report made no mention of the fact that one of the young women was beheaded, said nothing about the ISIS link and simply referred to “knife damage” on the woman’s neck.
Bizarrely, the report focused almost entirely on how it is a punishable offence to share the disturbing video. Written reports on SVT’s website did mention the fact that the murders have been linked to Islamic terrorism, but that fact was nowhere to be found in its strange Christmas Eve report.
The odd angle taken by SVT prompted suggestions from viewers that the broadcaster seemed to be more worried about the possibility of the video spreading further than the actual murders themselves – and annoyed viewers quickly took to social media to denounce what they said was a case of the media being overly concerned with political correctness.
One person noted that there was a significant difference between how SVT covered the 2015 Trollhättan school attack, in which the Swedish perpetrator had been motivated by racism and chose a school in an area with a high immigrant population to commit his murders. While in that case, SVT recounted “minute by minute” what the killer did, publishing graphics and detailed information, in the case of the Scandinavian girls, the coverage was far more vague.
One Twitter user wrote that at first he thought the use of the phrase “knife damage” instead of ‘beheaded’ or ‘decapitated’ was just some kind of unfortunate formulation of words until he realized the channel had repeated the phrase more than once.
“I myself would never watch such a film, let alone share it. But now we are more upset about the crime of proliferation than the crime of beheading,” another user wrote, denouncing overly “PC” people.
“Have these IS killers already been given jobs at SVT?” asked another angry tweeter, while another asked had the SVT reporters seen the footage of the woman dying and in pain as her neck is cut. “Knife damage is indeed a euphemism,” they wrote.
“225 years ago Marie Antoinette suffered ‘knife damage to her neck’ during the French Revolution,” another user sarcastically wrote.