While WikiLeaks was preoccupied with preparing its new “The Global Intelligence Files”, where we released on February 27 actual documents from the privatised spying world in collaboration with 25 newspapers, Swedish tabloid Expressen was preoccupied with filling its paper with false reports based on thin air.
In late February, Expressen claimed 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 fictitious story, I received a phone call from the paper.
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 organisation 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 extradite 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 the US already had a year ago a sealed indictment against him.
Despite categorically refuting Expressen’s allegations of a “Great WikiLeaks war against Sweden”, the tabloid ran the story. It became a storm in a teacup with reactions from Swedish 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?
If anything, the story was useful because in it Bildt said he was proud to have Karl Rove, former senior advisor to president George W Bush, 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.
He is 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. He is 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.
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” that outlines this imagined slander campaign.
Expressen 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 king's alledged sex club visit, and others).
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, 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 about WikiLeaks, Expressen should instead focus on the happy addition to the Swedish 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.”
[Kristinn Hrafnsson is a WikiLeaks spokesperson. This article is reprinted from www.wikileaks.org.]