Freivalds quits as Sweden’s foreign minister

Sweden’s foreign minister, the Latvia-born Laila Freivalds, has resigned amidst criticism of her reaction to an extremist group’s Web site running cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, the government announced March 21.

Freivalds appeared in a brief press conference with Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson to explain the resignation. Deputy Prime Minister Bosse Ringholm will take over temporarily until a new foreign minister is named.

Criticism of Freivalds had escalated in Sweden in the weeks since early February, when she strongly condemned SD-Kuriren, a far-right newspaper, for running the cartoons as a response to reaction caused by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and its publication in September of 12 caricatures of the prophet, whose depiction is generally prohibited under Islamic law.

“I will defend freedom of the press no matter what the circumstances, but I strongly condemn the provocation by SD-Kuriren,” Freivalds said in a Feb. 9 statement. “It displays a complete lack of respect.”

Shortly thereafter, a Foreign Ministry official contacted the hosting company on which the SD-Kuriren Web site was located and asked to shut it down. Freivalds initially denied knowing anything about the action, but documents showed that she had been informed, according to Radio Sweden.

Sweden’s constitution forbids government interference in the media.

Freivalds also was criticized for Sweden’s response to the December 2004 Asian tsunami. About 500 Swedish citizens died in the natural disaster that left nearly 230,000 dead or missing.

Freivalds, born in Rīga in 1942, became foreign minister in 2003. She replaced Anna Lindh, who died after being stabbed in a Stockholm department store. Freivalds earlier served twice as Sweden’s justice minister.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

One thought on “Freivalds quits as Sweden’s foreign minister

  1. Interesting spin. According to Latvians Online, those who stand in opposition to the Social Democrats are tarred as belonging to the “far right.” Apparently the Latvian Online news editor believes that censoring the Swedish Democratic Party’s website is little more than “criticism” and “condemnation.” Reading the above “news” one would never learn exactly why Freivalde was criticised for her reaction to the Tsunami. The Latvians Online news editor kinda glosses over that one. Also, the Latvians Online news editor never mentions the circumstances why Freivalde is a two-time ex-Justice minister.

    A political party that promotes conservative family values, openly opposes all forms of xenophobia and racism, urges solidarity with beleaguered Denmark has earned the scorn of Latvians Online — but Laila Freivaldes serious character flaws are somehow acceptable. What gives?


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