Telling it like it is

Andreas Ekström
2 min readJun 14, 2016

The ethical systems of the free press look different around the world, but all have a few things in common:

• They are constantly subject to heated discussion.

• They are often subject to change.

• They sometimes seem to be hard to understand, or hard to explain for the general public.

• And, of course: they tend to strike people from different backgrounds, nations and cultures as weird, odd or plain dangerous.

My good friend Paulina Neuding, a conservative commentator and experienced magazine publisher in Sweden, has recentely argued that Swedish public service media should be tougher on publishing names and pictures of wanted criminals. If the police needs help to identify someone, news outlets shouldn’t hesitate to publish footage from surveillance cameras or other material to achieve that.

For an American, this probably sounds like a non-issue.

American news outlets have a very strong tradition of always including people’s names in stories. Arrested small-time criminals or killers, all the same. It takes something out of the ordinary for even a moderate news outlet to exclude someone’s name from a story.

Swedish news outlets have a set of rules, ethical standards, set by the news industry itself, that calls for a calm and careful view on identity. Sure, someome committed a crime — but what happens to that person’s child if mom or dad is in the paper, portraited as a criminal?

The Swedish ethical guidelines are there mostly to protect innocents — not to protect criminals.

We have, however, gotten to a point where everyone is a publisher. The digital revolution makes any piece of information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation, be it a horrible mass murder in Orlando or a shoplifter caught red-handed somewhere, available for anyone.

One could argue that this makes publicistical responsibility old-fashioned, outdated or perhaps not even necessary at all.

I disagree. Every publisher, big or small, will have to help shaping a new public sphere by saying: my house, my rules.

If you control a corner of the internet — take full responsibility for it.


Andreas Ekström is a journalist, analyst, author and award winning keynote speaker — based in Sweden, but working all around the world. He writes on Medium most Tuesdays. (Well… some Tuesdays.) Read more here: or follow on Twitter:



Andreas Ekström

Educating for digital equality. Author, reporter. Won the Swedish “Speaker of the Year” award. Does this: Once opening act for pope John Paul II.