There has been a stark contrast between how US and world media are covering the recent publication by WikiLeaks of the Iraq War Logs. Mainstream US media outlets are more focused on the character and ethics of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. US media also seems to be downplaying the US’s role in the torture revealed by the leaked documents.
Glenn Greenwald has another excellent post examining how this compares to more substantive WikiLeaks coverage in the world media. I decided to take a look at the coverage in Sweden, which is one of the countries Glenn hasn’t discussed yet in this context.
I was curious about Swedish coverage because of the arrest warrant Swedish authorities issued for Julian Assange in August and later dropped. The charges followed on the heals of WikiLeak’s summer release of 75,000 classified documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and it’s unclear if they were part of a dirty tricks campaign against the WikiLeaks organization. As a couple of the source below discuss, it appears the investigation was reopened after being dropped, although there doesn’t appear to be an active arrest warrant.
Sweden is also the home to WikiLeak’s central servers. This is another reason I thought it would be interesting to examine recent Swedish coverage of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. I’m fortunate to have Swedish colleague who could translate the Swedish sites for me. I don’t speak Swedish and the summaries below are based on her translations and assessments.
vD (Svenska Dagbladet = “Swedish Times”)
Focus/Headline: Swedish weapons found on both sides
Body: 400,000 secret documents reveal instances of torture, abuse, and executions during the war [does not explicitly say it was by U.S. military]. Obama has transfered over the responsibility of safety to Iraq’s own military and police. American soldiers have reported heavy abuse of prisoners in Baghdad by Iraqi forces.[Further detail].A documentary reveals that American military turned a blind eye the malicious events.
Angle: Neutral. States facts and opposing quotes. Does not take a stand, but does point out what others’ opinions are on the matter.
Headline: SvD Reported Live from the Wikileak Press Conference
Body: A secret order enabled the U.S. to allow Iraqi forces to abuse helpless prisoners. At least 60% of the 109,000 dead that were registered in Iraq by the U.S. military between 2004 and 2009 were civilians. [More facts and numbers].[Quotes from Assange, and information about Wikileaks and how to submit information]. [...] The British attorney talks about the British involvement in the war and how shocking it is that 15,000 previously unknown deaths have been revealed. He criticizes the fact that the U.S. and the UK have done nothing to stop the torture to civilans by Iraqi soldiers.
DN (Dagens Nyheter = “Daily News”)
Some headlines… – “Assange ‘A Veritable Bloodbath’”, “Julian Assange: ‘Wikileaks Never Tell When a Publication Will Occur’”, “Wikileaks Frontman Disrupted Interview”, “Assange Does Not Obtain Visa”, “Unclear Investigation Against Assange”
Headline: USA: Wikileaks Has Not Hurt Us
This article basically discusses Wikileaks and whether or not the website is aiding the enemy. It states that Obama described Assange as a safety hazard, and that there are ethical issues associated with certain publications.
Headline: Unclear Investigation Against Assange
This article actually discusses the investigation against Assange as a potential sexoffender, but it only conveys that no one really knows what is true yet.
Headline: Assange Does Not Obtain Visa
This article talks about how Assange was refused Visa in Sweden. The reporter interviewed a head manager at the Swedish migrations office, Gunilla Wikström, who did not reveal the reason behind the refusal.
Main angle of this paper: The Wikileaks website. Not taking a stand on issue.
Aftonbladet = “Evening News”
The focus of this article is Julian Assange, the sex scandal, and the refusal to give him a Swedish visa. According to the article he was first suspected of rape and sexual abuse, then the case was closed, only to be re-opened again.
Headline: “USA Turned Blind Eye to Torture in Iraq”
This article brings up the fact that there were 15,000 more civilian deaths in the war than had been previously accounted for. The article also talks about how the U.S. and British military had kept torture, abuse, and murder under wraps. [Some details about the abuse]. Also stated is that the servers that currently host the documents are located in Stockholm. This paper tends to focus on drama and scandal, and to pick the side of the story that leads to more enticing headlines.