Swedish TV took off Western Sahara film 'Stolen'

7 March 2011, Swedish national TV was supposed to have screened the film ‘Stolen’. The TV station took the film off the programme after taking into consideration the wishes of the main character of the film.

Published 03 November 2011

The Swedish national TV station stated it had originally purchased the rights to screen the film ‘Stolen’ two years ago.

“After announcing the screening, we were made aware that one of the persons in the film had clearly distanced herself from its content, and that she had clearly expressed her wish to stop the publication of the movie”, stated the responsible editor. 

“We looked intensively for reasons to screen the movie, and we have investigated both the movie and the critique of it with magnifying glass (there are heavy reasons FOR screening it). […] Publishing it against the expressed wishes of a protagonist is a very serious intrusion which deserves extremely strong reasons to be legitimised.”

“My assessment as a responsible publisher is that the public interest of the film cannot defend the intrusion of personal integrity which a publication of the film would entail, against that person’s expressed wishes”, stated the responsible in the state TV channel.

Read the statements from the editor here:, 17 March, 26 March 2011 (in Swedish).

“As a journalist and publisher, my first instinct is always to publish - and slavery is a violation that deserves to be covered, described and prosecuted in all ways”, she wrote.

She also stated that the channel had investigated the translations of the film and found no faults. 

“It is always regretful having to cancel a film and ‘Stolen’ has good qualities, not at least as a document from a part of the world which we in general hear very little from, and since it treats the highly urgent humanitarian question of slavery. In this case, however, the arguments spoke for not screening”. 

The statements were published by SVT following criticism from a Swede known to actively support Moroccan claims in Western Sahara. The blogger claimed that the Swedish TV is “protecting the rights of the slave owner, and not the slave”.

The film ‘Stolen’ claims that a named refugee in the Saharawi refugee camps was kidnapped and is being held as a slave to her foster mother. No documentation to the crime was presented in the movie, and none of the two persons have been confronted with the allegations. 

The only scenes supposedly claiming to document slavery relations between the two individuals have been falsely translated, which is clear from the audio track of the premiere version of the movie. The movie was later changed, among other removing a scene in which the biological family denied her daughter ever having been kidnapped and held in captivity. The denial was at the premiere version translated as complete opposite.

After the erroneous premiere in Sydney, the new version of the film was screened on several film festivals internationally without consulting the 2 Saharawis in question. A handful festivals took it off the programme after investigating the allegations.

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