The situation of minority journals in Sweden

Speach during the conference about minority media in Århus, 12-15 June 2003

I want to start with a short presentation of the Immigrant Institute. The institute is a research and documentation centre on migration, refugees and issues on racism and discrimination. It has a library, an archive and even a museum of immigrant artists with exhibitions about migration in Sweden and in Borås. The institute co-operates with immigrant organisations in Sweden, universities and other Swedish organisations. The research made by the institute tries to part from the immigrants’ perspective.

One of the first projects of the Immigrant Institute was to collect immigrant journals. The institute has since 1976 published a list on immigrant and minority journals. The first edition comprised 129 titles and the last edition from 2001 comprised 230 printed and 40 electronic journals. This list is available on paper but also on the internet.

An archive with more than 1000 journals are available in the institute’s library. Many new magazines have been published during the past years. There are some magazines who started at the forties or fifties and who are still appearing, while others have an average life of 4-5 years of publication.

The immigrant journals are very different from each other. We find many different categories, for instance general journals for a general public, local journals which address to members of a local immigrant organisation (very common between the Finnish population), cultural journals addressing to cultural workers in some minorities and mostly published by individuals or by some organisation which only aim is to publish the journal (for instance in Kurdish and Farsi), journals for the youth and for women, for fishing and for music instruments. The diversity of the journals makes of course difficult for the Swedish authorities to find a system, which could be suitable for giving support to them.

Still, it was possible in the seventies to get support for three different groups of journals. Journals appearing every day or at least once a week could get support from Presstödsnämnden (press Subsidy Council). This is still possible today. The number of such journals varies from time to time but is not bigger than six-seven, five actually. The languages of publication are Swedish, Estonian, Spanish, and Finnish.

There was in the seventies a kind of support for journals appearing twice a month or journals published by immigrant organisations in the national level even if they appeared once a month. This support continued for a few years and the Swedish Immigration Board administered it. Things changed in 1985.

A new support system to immigrant organisations made that from this time the support to them could be used for any activity in the organisation, even for the publication of a journal. Since then the support for magazines published by national organisations disappeared. Some kind of support continued until 1998 for other magazines. Some journals published by local organisations or by individuals could still get direct support. This also changed later when the Swedish Immigration Board became two organisations and the Integration Council was created.

The Cultural Council gave also support to a few journals, mostly in Swedish but even in other languages, if they were published for children. Some Kurdish journals got support this way. Nowadays the Cultural Board gives support to about 16 journals, of which some are journals from approved minorities. The Roma community has for the first time possibility to publish in romani with support from the society.

Many of the local journals have survived thanks to the local community, which in many cases has supported them economically. Another important economic income has been advertising. Here we can see very quickly which magazines have succeeded and which have not. We can see that there is a very big variation between them.

There is not a single journal, which has survived thanks to subscriptions only. Either they have a strong organisation behind them as the journals published by national minority organisations or they have a strong support from the authorities. One exception is the Estonian press, which has survived during many years thanks to the efforts of the Estonian community together. The Estonians have had a kind of solidarity between organisations as to help each other in the distribution of materials and information, as well as participation in each other's activities. The Finnish community, which is the largest minority community in Sweden, tried to have a daily journal, Finn Sanomat. It was published for some years from 1979 to 1983. Nowadays the Finnish media have found that weekly publication is enough. There are two such publications now.

The minority media in printed form fills a very important task. The minority media helps to know a lot of the minorities living in Sweden, their aims in Sweden, culture and struggles vis a vis their home countries. It is an historic source, which can not be replaced by other means.

My knowledge about radio and television is not the same. There are programs in the local near radio, a special system by which local organisations can send within a restricted area, especially in the big cities. Here the most important task is to function as a social catalisator within the colony they address to. They are also important when thinks happen, as they can send information directly.

Some reflections about late events in Sweden. In 2000 there was a conference in Malmö for minority media. A report of the conference was published by Africa Forum and FIMMS was created. A year later FIMMS and the Immigrant Institute organised a conference in Borås, which was opened by the minister of culture Marita Ulvskog. After her visit to Borås and the exhibition of minority magazines she decided to appoint an investigation of minority media in Sweden and their needs. Some of you have surely read the report, publish by the press Subsidy Council. You may not find a single proposal unless things that somebody else than the Swedish State can do. This is a new way of making propositions, as I see it.

The most striking is that you may not find a single word about the catalogues and the library of the Immigrant Institute. A list with addresses published in the report was a copy of the Immigrant Institutes addresses. Not a single acknowledge. Instead of that, the reader gets the idea that the researcher has done all the work alone. This kind of cribbing is allowed today by the official Sweden.

You understand that I am not optimistic any longer about the possibilities of support by the Swedish society. The only think is that media lives its own life, even if the society doesn't support it.

Miguel Benito