Posted by: Waern | September 1, 2009

Convicted for Walraffing?

Jaakko previously blogged about the trial against Anna Odell, the art student who staged a fake psychosis on a bridge. The sentence was announced yesterday. Odell was sentenced for two crimes:  ‘violent resistance’ and ‘dishonest conduct’ but freed on the third charge, for raising false alarm. Since anyone who resists a police arrest is convicted for ‘violent resistance’ in Sweden, the first accusation point is a no-brainer. The second, on ‘dishonest conduct’, is more interesting. The motivation is that her behaviour has caused economic loss to the medical centre.

The German reporter Günther Walraff is famous for his undercover journalist work. By impersonating various characters such as an immigrant worker or a journalist (!), he has been able to get employed in companies that he wishes to expose. This makes him able to document inhuman work conditions or attitudes with his employers. In Swedish, this method of journalistic investigation is called ‘Walraffa’ – hence the “Walraffing” title of of this post. Despite several attempts to sue him by his former employers he has never actually been convicted.

The conviction of Odell has raised a debate in Sweden whether Walraffing might be criminal in Sweden. My gut feeling is that it is not. Odell was given the lowest possible sentence, a sligt ‘slap in the face’ as someone commented. Part of the reason was that the documented costs were low (under six dollars); the medical centre had asked for damage reimbursement but got none. Had Odell been a journalist and not an artist, it is likely that the case never would have reached the court.

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