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(on 2012-03-06)

Kristinn Hrafnsson: The Great WikiLeaks War on Sweden?

Originally published 5 March 2012

The Great WikiLeaks war on Sweden?

While WikiLeaks has been preoccupied with preparing its new release ’The Global Intelligence Files’ where we are releasing actual documents from the privatized spying world in collaboration with 25 newspapers, Expressen has been preoccupied with filling their paper with false reports based on thin air.

Last week Expressen claimed that WikiLeaks was preparing a ’smear campaign against Sweden’ and cited as sources both a WikiLeaks ’insider’ and a WikiLeaks ’internal memo’.

As I was hurrying through Paddington rail station in London the night before the publication of Expressen’s grand ficticious story, I received a phone call from Expressen. Although the environment was noisy I am certain the journalist got the answer to his questions; namely that WikiLeaks had no beef with Swedes and the organization was absolutely not planning a ’slander campaign against Sweden’. After being repeatedly asked, I did add that it should not come as a surprise to anybody if WikiLeaks supporters react strongly if the US attempts to extradited him from Sweden. The Swedish people are strong WikiLeaks supporters - bar Expressen. Anyone who doubts the US Government’s intention to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should read the Stratfor emails: news from the GI Files release shows that the US already a year ago had a sealed indictment against him.

Despite categorically refuting Expressen’s allegations of a ’Great WikiLeaks war against Sweden’, Expressen ran the story. It became a storm in a teacup with reactions from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt who was genuinely hurt that he might personally be slandered. That great man with impeccable reputation! What a farce. Is the dog wagging the tail or is it the other way around?

Carl and Karl

If anything, the story was useful because in it Foreign Minister Bildt expressed that he was proud to have Karl Rove as an old and close friend. For those who don’t know him, Rove is one of the most disreputable spin doctors in the neocon ranks of the US. The man who resigned from his White House post due to being implicated in the systematic removal of those attorney generals the Bush administration did not like. The man who refused to testify before a congressional committee by hiding behind executive privileges.

This close pal of Bildt is acknowledged to be a great spin master, twisting the gullible media around like puppets on a string. For any person with a brain bigger than a peanut, it seems grotesque for a serious European politician to brag about having Rove as a close friend. It is like a proud gardener announcing he keeps toxic waste buried underneath his tulips.

Where is the evidence?

The Expressen episode is laughable but admittedly has a Rove-esque touch to it (using his spin doctor tactic: fabricate a story then ’let the bloody bastards deny it!’).

Expressen has not met WikiLeaks simple request: publish the so-called ’WikiLeaks memo’ which outlines this imagined slander campaign. Expressen will not - and they will not for the simple reason that it does not exist. Also it is certain that they have no ’insider WikiLeaks source’. They claim source protection. That is an unacceptable excuse. Surely they could print the alleged internal memo while protecting their source. WikiLeaks and other papers do it all the time.

The latest development in the outlandish Expressen Saga on the ’Wikileaks war on Sweden’ is a claim that we have been spying on Swedish journalists. Again, no proof produced - just a secret source.

Listen, good journalists at Expressen, we do have serious work to do as you might have noticed, and we just could not be bothered with your personal details. In other words - we don’t do your kind of tabloid journalism. We are busy holding governments and corporations to account.

What comes as a great and unfortunate surprise is that other journalists actually seem to take Expressen’s Rove-spin seriously. That is of great concern. But the Swedish readers are used to fabrications by Expressen (the Persbrandt debacle, the fabricated photos of the kings alledged sex club visit, and others).

Breathe easy – no war.

WikiLeaks has no plan to wage a ’slander war’ with Sweden. There are many things to admire of Sweden. But all democracies must be scrutinised, and our publisher Julian Assange has been unfairly treated by certain elements in the judicial and political system in Sweden. These systems are intertwined.

There are admirable laws in place in Sweden protecting journalists. They should not be abused to protect sloppy journalistic work. Malice is not a good practice in journalism. Our insider source at Expressen (protected) told one of our associates that, following the public shaming of Expressen in the GI Files press conference earlier this week, the paper has internally declared it is at war with WikiLeaks.

The only fight WikiLeaks is fighting on Swedish soil is a war for truth and transparency, accountability and justice. That war has no borders. We do this because this is our role as journalists.

Instead of fabricating stories on WikiLeaks, Expressen should instead focus on the happy addition to the royal family. Perhaps they should also reflect on the wise words that Tarras-Wahlberg, the former press director for the Swedish royal family, used to describe Expressen: “The newspaper has incorporated sensation and scandal into its system as a way of earning money”, and “It is more the rule than the exception that they rely on so-called reliable sources. Sources that sometimes only exist in the reporter’s head, or that when they maybe do exist, are obviously unreliable”

I have little to add to that really.

With warm regards to the Swedish nation,

Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks spokesperson

The Swedish transaltion of this article was published in SvT Debatt on 5 March 2012: http://debatt.svt.se/2012/03/05/wik...

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