The day after the internationally publicized speech of Julian Assange from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains in political asylum amid 746 days in which Sweden has deprived him of basic human-rights – Swedish leading paper Dagens Nyheter (DN) publishes a one-page editorial on moral issues about torture that countries should observe. Countries are name-given, but not a single word about Sweden’s own wrongdoings and which even ended in UN sanctions for Sweden’s serious violation of the UN Absolute Ban On Torture. The DN-editorial even utters – as in the figure of taking away dust from the shoulders with one snap – “For others, perhaps already being in a incommunicado cell it experiences as torture”. But that it is exactly what Assange has undergone after Sweden issued the absolutely unnecessary arresting-order that threw Assange – without been charged – to an incommunicado cell in London, waiting for the hearing! And with the threat he shall be, again, immediately incommunicado if extradited to Sweden!
By Marcello Ferrada de Noli
Julian Assange's speech from the Ecuadorian Embassy 20 Dec 2012. Click on image for video
Dagens Nyheter (DN) is the leading Swedish newspaper. Self labelled as an independent liberal, although ”liberal” in Sweden political culture is not the same as in the US – where liberals are often ascribed/ascribing to a rather social-liberal or left-liberal ideology. The “liberal” party in Sweden is a right wing party, and to a great extent even support the monarchy institution – as the “leftist” social democrats also do. (As a mater of fact, most of the Swedish political parties are supporters of a monarchy regime. This is obvious; otherwise the monarchy institution in Sweden would have been abolished by the Parliament a long time ago. I will come back to this item in the coming days when analysing the historical relationships of Sweden with geopolitical Neutrality).
My opinion – I have read DN daily for forty years now – is that it is a newspaper that could eventually qualify for best professional-journalistic standards, if not were for an intrinsic paradox, an apparently inbuilt bias present in almost the entire Swedish media. This is one side of the paradox:
A number of the DN articles or reportages are social-minded, or humanistic minded, and some really scrutinize in what it would be considered truly journalistic fashion. Like inquiring into some of the government democratic flaws or wrongdoings – controlling those in power. For instance, in the last month we have read in DN important reportages on the systemic errors of the Swedish Police that directly or indirectly criticize the ministry of justice; the scandals in the Swedish health care system with direct criticism of Sweden’s health authority – Socialstyrelsen; the dramatic reports on increasing, massive cases, of children that are evicted from their homes together with their families amid an anti-human policy making people homeless for not being able to pay the rent in time. This, in a rich country distinguished nowadays in the EU for its main banks that show record profits, a country whose “economic crisis” is not those people’s fault. And not only that; the Editor-in-chief of the political redaction, a young man named Peter Wolodarsky, runs weekly two-page editorials, several of them with outstanding critical insight with regard to democratic rule – last, characterizing the Swedish Finance Authority board “antidemocratic”, for taking aggravating decisions on the national debt of Sweden without the consultation of Parliament or of the people.
On the other hand, when it is the opportunity to analyse issues related to the international prestige of Sweden, DN – as well nearly every media in Sweden – loses the professional-journalist stature that otherwise would characterize the paper. In those items of Sweden’s international behaviour or the international criticism that such behaviour would entail, those in power are not controlled – the professional journalist is converted in the political establishment’s megaphone. That is the other side of the Swedish publicist paradox.
And I exemplify DN for being the “dean” of the Swedish press, but this paradoxical behaviour can be observed in all the rest of the media – including the national TV (SvT) or Radio that from time to time also exposes isolated scandalous abuses of power or corruption. But when it comes to issues questioning Swedish institutions, the system, they drop objectivity as per default.
And here is where the Assange case comes into context. DN has been no exception in the Swedish media crusade in the biased presenting of the “legal process” against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or in the demonizing portrait of Assange. For deeply in reality the issues around WikiLeaks are all issues which compromise Sweden’s foreign policy, as the issues around the “legal process” compromise the prestige of Sweden and the potential of exporting a unique juridical culture and specific legislation.
It is here where the apparently kamikaze or reckless campaigns such as Prataomdet – where DN and other media repeated in every article the same anti-Assange introductory text-mantra – find its political puzzle box.
And here is where the Swedish culture of consensus, the monolithic, rock-solid uncritical that all the political parties, all the MSM and the state-owned media have demonstrated on and on when it comes to maters of “national interest” [See chapter III - Background B: Sweden is not neutral and above all, Swedish media traditionally covers Swedish international disputes by plainly repeating the official line without further question it in “Does Sweden Inflict Trial by Media against Assange?"].
In other words, this is intellectual chauvinism. And chauvinism has nothing to do with patriotism. For being patriot is to defend the interest of the people, the interest of the country – which is not per definition equated with the interest of the rulers, or of the geopolitical alliances those in power subscribe in secrecy on the back of the people.
One of these secret agreements of government officials with foreign powers, was the collaborationist agreements of the Swedish ministry of Justice – and the Swedish Foreign Office – with political and intelligence services of the US, such as CIA, initiated – best put it – increased all along the last decade and beginning with the Göran Persson regime, being minister of justice Thomas Bordström.
As a result of these collaborationist agreements, conducted in secret and without the consent of Parliament, resulted in the illegal extradition of political refugees in Sweden, handed over to CIA operatives to be taken for torture elsewhere. Those were the “rendition flights” and one of those cases become public after exceptional investigative circumstances.
This was the so-called “Egyptians case”. Sweden was discovered, and as a main actor in this anti-human crime the UN sanctioned Sweden drastically. For the crime was not about a minor issue. Sweden had committed a serious “violation on the United Nations Absolute Ban On Torture” – a Convention that Sweden (as well US) had signed.
The fact that Sweden has such record in proceeding with illegal extradition cases to foreign powers [see The Assange Extradition Case Revisited] and particularly of prisoners requested by US, has been a main argument in the position of the legal team of Assange advisers recommending him to fight an extradition to Sweden.
Today, after the internationally publicized speech of Julian Assange, from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains in political asylum amid 746 days in which Sweden has deprived him of basic human-rights – Dagens Nyheter (DN) publishes a one-page editorial refering to torture and reviewing ethical issues that all countries should observe.
However, the article does not utter a single word about Sweden’s doings on the very same issue, which so critically is developed in reference to others.
Not a single word about Sweden’s own doings with regard to collaborate with the torture of prisoners and which even ended in UN sanctions for Sweden’s serious violation of the UN Absolute Ban On Torture.
The DN-editorial even utters – as in the figure of taking away dust from the shoulders with one snap – “For others, perhaps already being in a incommunicado cell it experiences as torture”. But that it is exactly what Assange has undergone after Sweden – absolutely unnecessary – issued the arresting order that threw Assange – without been charged – to an incommunicado cell for a week, waiting for the hearing! And with the threat he shall be, again, immediately incommunicado if extradited to Sweden!
In a given moment of the text, the author writes, “For others perhaps already being in a incommunicado cell experiences as torture” (“För andra kanske redan isoleringscell upplevs som tortyr”). But that it is exactly what Assange has undergone after Sweden – absolutely unnecessary – extended the arresting order which thrown Assange to an incommunicado cell for a week in waiting for the hearing! Why is DN not mentioning this real Swedish-case?
Finally, the DN-editorial manifests, “Those (countries) that use torture cannot criticize a dictatorship for that. The US should have a higher moral standard that North Korea”. (“Den som själv använder tortyr kan inte kritisera en diktatur för det. USA måste ha en högre moralisk standard än Nordkorea.”).
And Sweden should not?
That is the other side of the Swedish media paradox. And those are the matters compromising the notion of objectivity, or professionalism, that the leading Swedish newspaper should instead be giving an example of.