Swedish daily Sydsvenskan collaborated with an Arabic-language paper and got thousands of new readersPhoto: Screenshot

Swedish Sydsvenskan collaborated with an Arabic-language paper and got thousands of new readers

Publicerad: 14 January 2016, kl. 10:11

When southern Swedish daily Sydsvenskan started working on its article series #föreflykten (#beforetheescape) in the fall of 2015, the main goal was to tell a Swedish audience about the people behind the immigration numbers.

Adam Jönsson

The articles, produced by reporter Jens Mikkelsen and photographer Hussein El-Alawi, got a lot of attention as they tried to show a nuanced side in the reporting about the refugee situation in Europe and the Middle East, which is still ongoing.

But the paper realized a big group of people living in Sweden couldn’t access the articles as they didn’t speak Swedish.

Representatives at Sydsvenskan therefore got in touch with Al-Kompis, the biggest Arabic-language media based in Sweden.

Al-Kompis translated the Swedish articles into Arabic and started pushing it to its over 250,000 followers on social media.

‘‘They [Sydsvenskan] produced this material and thought it would be good if other refugees got to read it and feel like they’re human beings and not just numbers at the Swedish Migration Board,’’ Mahmoud Agha, editor-in-chief at Al-Kompis, tells Smashdig. ‘‘They [the refugees] can [feel] they can do a lot. They can dream and believe they have a future in this country.’’

The collaboration meant Sydsvenskan managed to spread its content further as several thousands read the Arabic versions.

‘‘It feels important that the articles were spread even more. We who have our base in Malmö know very well that written Swedish doesn’t reach everyone and it’s important that we think in new ways,’’ Pia Rehnquist, editor-in-chief at Sydsvenskan, says in a statement.

Sweden has had a liberal immigration policy for years. But despite the large group of immigrants, there have been few collaborations between Swedish and ethnic media.

The #föreflykten project was the first time Al-Kompis worked together with a Swedish newspaper on this scale (Al-Kompis has had a few collaborations with, among others, evening paper Aftonbladet). However, the online paper hopes to do it again, Agha says.

‘‘We think it’s a really good idea because we feel we complement each other,’’ Agha says. ‘‘Through us, Swedish media is able to reach ethnic groups that otherwise might feel isolated because they can’t access news due to language barriers and other factors.

‘‘It’s good for the Swedish society to get more familiar with these groups and their problems and success stories,’’ Agha says.

Collaborations between ethnic media such as Al-Kompis and their Swedish counterparts have a lot of benefits to both parties, Agha says.

For example, reporters with different ethnic backgrounds might be able to conduct interviews with people Swedish reporters can’t talk to due to language-barriers.

And on their part, Swedish journalists might be able to help their foreign dittos on what a certain type of law means or how a political policy might affect a specific group of people or the society as a whole.

‘‘I believe the media can do a lot to further integration. Especially if we [Swedish and ethnic media] can do it together,’’ says Agha.

The collaboration between Swedish and ethnic media could also mean a useful exchange in journalism practices.

‘‘We who are Arabic journalists think in a different way when we do a reportage or interview people. But this [#föreflykten] material was interesting because it was written in a simple and clear way, like most Swedish journalism,’’ says Agha. ‘‘Swedish media doesn’t complicate things when they write and they don’t write to further a political cause. That’s the main difference between media in Sweden and in the Arab countries.’’

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