Friday, March 11, 2011

Case Assange: Rights Activist Challenges Ethics of Swedish Courts, Media. By Andrew Kreig

American attorney and author Andrew Kreig is Director of the Washington-based Justice Integrity Project. He is a prominent defender of Human-rights causes and notable columnist, among other in The Huffington Post. Professors blogg publishes here this new article by Andrew Kreig, dealing with the linking-censorship that a variety of articles published in these pages on the case Assange, have been subjected to by the Swedish mainstream media. 

Rights Activist Challenges Ethics of Swedish Courts, Media

by Andrew Kreig / Project Director

As Swedish authorities push for a secret trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a noted human rights activist has repeatedly challenged the oft-praised fairness of his nation’s legal system and its media coverage. Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli built an illustrious career as a medical school professor after enduring torture in his native Chile. But he has worked almost tirelessly in his spare time for the past two months to expose what he regards as complacency among his fellow Swedes regarding the human rights abuses in his nation’s all-out effort to capture Assange, ostensibly because of sex allegations filed by a politically connected lawyer. 

The professor says he has documented that investigative reports by the Justice Integrity Project and the prominent author Naomi Wolf about Assange are among those prevented from display in reader comments at major Swedish newspapers. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has imposed new and barbarous pre-trial punishment on Assange’s alleged accomplice, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning. This fuels suspicions that the Sweden and the United States are secretly collaborating to frame the two suspects as part of a pan-national crackdown on government whistleblowers – even as Western powers boast of their “Internet Freedom.” Secretary of State Clinton boasted of the importance of freedom at a recent university speech even as security personnel arrested, bruised and bloodied a silent peace protester in the audience, retired CIA officer Ray McGovern.

Below, screen-shot of the referred column published in Justice Integrity

In theory, Swedish authorities want to ask Assange once again about reports of sex misconduct with two women who invited him to sleep with them during his visit to Sweden last summer. A United Kingdom judge ordered Assange, held without bond, extradited to Sweden to answer the questions in Swedish proceedings that will be secret, according to the country’s norms. The judge brushed off allegations of a potential vendetta against Assange, saying European authorities could address any irregularities if they occur.  Assange’s lawyers are appealing the ruling, with the appellate decision expected shortly.  

For Professor Ferrada de Noli, however, the irregularities in the unprecedented Interpol manhunt to capture Assange for another round of questioning are already shocking. The case is so unusual that the doctor has published on his “Professors blogg” website since last fall many investigative commentaries. Furthermore, he has observed, tested and exposed what he describes as a plot by powerful figures in the mainstream Swedish media working behind the scenes to limit public questions about their nation’s courts, including blocking reader attempts to cite columns by Wolf and our Project. His study of why and how this occurred entitled, “Does Sweden Inflict Trial by Media against Assange?”

The professor undertook his study with no staff and on a rushed basis because of fast-moving legal proceedings. He holds a Ph.D. in psychiatry from the Karolinska Institutet. A professor emeritus there in Public Health Sciences, he was formerly a research fellow in social medicine at Harvard Medical School.  Currently, he is senior advisor at the Department of Immunology at, Stockholm University.
His introduction to his study is: 

Svenska dagbladet, a main Swedish newspaper, illustrated its 17 Feb 2011 article “Idyllic picture of Sweden is darkened” with a montage showing the notorious criminal Göran Lindberg – a world-reviled, convicted serial rapist (including the rape of a 14-year old child) – portrayed together with Julian Assange and his lawyer Mark Stephens. A conspicuous columnist of the newspaper Aftonbladet refers 13 Feb 2011 to Julian Assange as “a paranoid idiot who refuses come to Sweden to confront trial”. The competitor newspaper, Expressen, describes 13 Feb 2011 in its cultural page “the sexual pleasure of Mr Assange is just an inescapable element for his severe compulsive needs that are beyond…."

To assess such reports, this article presents an empirical statistical analysis of Swedish media reports regarding the Assange case. We describe hostility by the Swedish media to Assange raising questions about the journalists’ mental state, and as well as questions about self-censorship by prominent Swedish media. We must question also why Swedish journalists employed by traditional media act so uniformly. Finally, we scrutinize whether the frequently claimed freedom of expression by Swedish newspapers can be compatible with blocking opinions viewed as contradicting conventional wisdom, such as exposing reasons for Sweden’s official antagonism towards Assange and WikiLeaks.

Who in the Swedish media is deciding to filter the links of articles to admit certain blogs and censure others? What are the criteria? Is it the newspaper publisher or the journalist who is authoring the newspaper article? Or is it the Internet Service company providing the link from the blogosphere?

Going to the gist of the matter, he continues:

The questions arise from a recent article in Sweden by the prominent American writer and journalist Naomi Wolf (12/2). The main Swedish newspapers refused to link to her article, creating further international embarrassment for the Swedish media beyond the facts of the Assange case. Her article analyzed the proceedings against Assange published as a guest-contribution in the Sweden-based Professors blog, established 2005 and edited by this author.

A longtime feminist and volunteer rape counselor, Wolf’s courageously criticized Swedish authorities for pursuing such an unusual investigation so aggressively quoted extensively my report on the Huffington Post in December that former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove’s clients have included Sweden’s governing conservative party. In doing so, she provoked cheap shots from other feminists who argued that she should defer to the judgment of Claes Borgström, the lawyer seeking Assange’s prosecution on claims of unprotected sex.  Her essay, however, noted the political context of the case based on such reports as my Huffington Post article in December, “Rove Suspected In Swedish-U.S. Political Prosecution of WikiLeaks.”  Later, I reported in Connecticut Watchdog, “Partner at Firm Counseling Assange's Accusers Helped the CIA In Rendition for Torture,”

The professor raises important questions about how the traditional media have congruent interests with government leaders, particularly in covering Internet-enabled media that bypass traditional gatekeepers in the media and government. Interestingly, Ferrada-Noli and the Justice Integrity Project have each succeeded in republishing our political investigations in Sweden on such Internet-based independent news sites in Sweden as The Swedish Wire, News 24 and The Local that appear to be more independent of the pressures in a highly-charged political case. The phenomenon is apparent on both sides of the Atlantic, as indicated by the Wolf essay published originally on the Huffington Post and now on Professors blogg: WikiLeaks, Revolution, and the Lost Cojones of American Journalism. March 3, 2011.
“Sweden used to enjoy a selective, well-cultivated journalist body,” Ferrada-Noli concludes. “The creepy and accomplice silence of the media is devouring the soul of a country otherwise dignified by its beauty, its ethics, and its peace.”

Appendix: Recent Coverage

Washington Post, In brig, WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning ordered to sleep without clothing, Ellen Nakashima, March 2011. Military jailers are forcing Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old soldier accused of passing classified documents to, to strip naked in his cell at night and sleep without clothing, a requirement his lawyer says was imposed after Manning made a "sarcastic quip" about his confinement.

Emptywheel/FireDogLake, A Narrative Chronology of Bradley Manning’s Alleged Leaks, Marcy Wheeler, March 5, 2011. Here’s what the government appears to believe happened.

Salon Unclaimed Territory, Bradley Manning's forced nudity to occur daily, Glenn Greenwald, March 5, 2011. The treatment of Manning is now so repulsive that it even lies beyond what at least some of the most devoted Obama admirers are willing to defend. It's long been clear that the Obama administration is subjecting Manning to this treatment in order to break him and thus induce the type of incriminating statements they need to build a conspiracy case against their real targets: WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.   Moreover, the Obama administration's unprecedented obsession with deterring and punishing whistle-blowers is undoubtedly motivating much of this punitive conduct as well.  Whatever the motives, charging a whistle-blower with a capital offense of "aiding the enemy," sticking him for almost a full year in repressive solitary confinement, and then forcing him to remain nude in captivity, is the type of abusive detainee treatment that caused substantial political controversy during the Bush years.  Now, by stark contrast, the silence is deafening.

Daily Kos, Anonymous Will Avenge Manning, Barrett Brown, March 3, 2011. The decision to charge Bradley Manning with a capital offense in addition to other charges is a provocation and Anonymous is set to respond accordingly.

Guardian (United Kingdom), Julian Assange lodges extradition appeal, James Meikle, March 3, 2011. Lawyers representing the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, have lodged papers to appeal against his extradition from Britain to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. The high court in London confirmed it had received documents to challenge the ruling made at Belmarsh magistrates court, south London, last week.

The Local (Sweden), Assange lawyer under investigation in Sweden, March 2, 2011. Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer Björn Hurtig is under investigation by the Swedish Bar Association following accusations made by a British judge during the WikiLeaks founder's extradition trial. In releasing his ruling last week that Assange should be extradited to Sweden, District Judge Howard Riddle accused Hurtig of deliberately misleading the court, calling him "unreliable". Riddle also claimed that Hurtig, who was called to testify at the trial by his client's British legal team, had purposefully given faulty information about how many times Swedish prosecutors tried to contact him.

NewsCore (Australia) Accused WikiLeaks source Manning stripped, left naked in military cell, lawyer says, March 4, 2011. lawyer representing the US Army Private accused of sharing classified documents with WikiLeaks claims his client was stripped of his clothes and left naked in a cell for seven hours. David E. Coombs wrote about the incident at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia, where Pfc Bradley Manning has been held since July, in an entry on his website, the New York Times reported. "This type of degrading treatment is inexcusable and without justification," Mr Coombs wrote. "It is an embarrassment to our military justice system and should not be tolerated. Pfc Manning has been told that the same thing will happen to him again tonight."

Huffington Post, Hillary Clinton Calls Al Jazeera 'Real News,' Criticizes U.S. Media (VIDEO), March 3, 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers "real news"--something she said American media were falling far short of doing.

Andrew Kreig

Other articles on the Assange case in Professors blogg

  7 Dec 2010. Analysis: Why Sweden revenge against Assange

media & blog links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
Wikileaks, J Assange, Assangemedia, yttrandehefrihettransperanswikileaks intressant, 

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