The Pirate Party has gathered a huge following in Sweden. More than half of all men under 30 are considering voting for the party in the upcoming European Parliament elections. However, being affiliated with the party is not without risks – even in a democracy.
For several years the media in Sweden has reported that interest in politics among the youth is decreasing at an alarming rate. In 2006, more than 40% of young Swedes who had been elected for a public seat in the previous elections had quit their assignments.
Jonas Bergling is one of the young politicians who believes in being politically active for the public benefit. His story, however, may shed some light on why the young voices are effectively silenced in the daily grind of politics.
Last Monday, Jonas Bergling took part in a chat session with the local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda (NA) in the city of Örebro, Sweden. He was there in his spare-time position as head of the constituency for the Pirate Party in Örebro. Readers of the newspaper were invited to ask him questions regarding topics such as anti-piracy efforts, the Pirate Bay trial and the politics of the Pirate Party.
Since Sweden’s Pirate Party is running for seats in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, there was a lot of interest in what he had to say. For Bergling, maybe it turned out to be too much interest.
When not pursuing his political interests in his spare time, Jonas’ day job used to be as an IT consultant for EDB Business Partner. It used to be, because the chat with the newspaper didn’t go unnoticed by the company’s Chief of Security, who wasn’t amused. Three days later the aspiring politician was fired because of the political opinions he’d aired in the chat.
“When I left work on Thursday, I got a call from my boss who told me I couldn’t come in on Friday morning and that I had to hand in the keys and security card. It doesn’t feel good to be treated this way. This isn’t how it should be in a democracy,” Jonas said to NA.
According to Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge’s blog, the decision to fire Jonas came from the head office in Stockholm, where the management group made its decision despite protests from Jonas’ local bosses in Örebro.
“It came from the highest ranks within EDB and that makes this a dead serious matter,” writes Falkvinge. “To me, it doesn’t matter if the harassment stems from someone being a pirate, socialist, capitalist or feminist – to harass someone in this way is completely and fundamentally unacceptable.“
“I’ve always been careful not to mix my political views with my work,” Jonas told NA, and he said his supervisor knew of his involvement with the Pirate Party when he was given the job.
As his employment terms were more like those of a consultant rather than an employee, EDB did not break Swedish work legislation when they canceled his contract, even though the termination was explicitly due to his political views.
This isn’t the first time that someone has lost his job for taking a ‘pro-piracy’ stance. Back in 2005, Alexander Hanff, the ex-admin of the now defunct DVDR-Core tracker, appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight show to discuss the Grokster decision. His computer training company employer gave him the time off to appear on the show – then promptly fired him.