Critical Details Vanish From Swedish Journalism in This Ad

Sometimes ignorance isn't bliss

In collaboration with Åkestam Holst, Reporters Without Borders made a print ad to protest a foreign espionage law that went into effect in Sweden as the year began.

That statute changes rules guaranteeing certain freedoms of the press and expression. The new code criminalizes—as "foreign espionage"—the release of sensitive information that could potentially damage Sweden's relationships with allies. The nation's union of journalists argues that the law will make aspects of their trade, notably investigative reporting, more difficult by withdrawing protection from whistleblowers.

To raise awareness about the law's impact on the public's right to know, Reporters Without Borders took out a full-page ad in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's biggest daily newspaper. It contains a message that resembles a piece of news: "A Turkish billion-dollar project, with clear connections to Putin, is supported by the Swedish government."

That middle bit—"with clear connections to Putin"—was printed with CO2-sensitive ink, and progressively disappears when exposed to air. This illustrates how reporters will need to self-censor to avoid running afoul of the new law.

“Making this together with the people at Dagens Nyheter and Bold Printing took its share of blood, tears and ink," says Joakim Khoury, agency creative director. 

Åkestam Holst is best known for the provocative, playful work it has created for brands like Ikea. But in recent years it has increasingly thrown its weight behind more socially conscious causes. Notable efforts include phone sex ads that help women escape sex work, pills designed to make Big Pharma rethink their dumping practices, and a credit card with a carbon limit. Other work it's done for Reporters Without Borders includes acclaimed campaigns such as "Billboards Without Borders."

It merits mention that, however, that last year, agency CEO Johan Östlund was obliged to step down following solicitation charges. Since then, the shop has been led by Jenny Kaiser. 

CREDITS

Åkestam Holst NoA:
Creative Director – Joakim Khoury
Strategist – Sebastian Stüben
Strategist – Stina Hansson
Art Director – Hugo Wallmo
Copywriter – Daniel Vaccino
Copywriter – Petter Nylind
Graphic Designer – Sara Bellafesta
Project Manager – Jesper Ander
Production Manager – John Müllersdorf
Production Manager – Caroline Sjöström
Intern – Ida Nordeng
Intern – Linn Löfholm

Bold Printing Stockholm:
Linda Pettersson
Per Andersson

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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