STOCKHOLM (FRIA TIDER). Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has claimed that the media climate in Sweden has become so "hostile" against him that it may now jeopardize his right to a fair trial. These allegations have been strongly rejected by several Swedish officials, but a brief glance at recent Swedish media coverage on Assange seems to show that they are not entirely without ground.
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The smears against Assange:
”Coward”, ”pitiful wretch”, ”scumbag” ~ Göran Hägglund, Swedish Minister of Social Affairs. (Publicity photo by Alliansen)
”White-haired crackpot”, ”coward”, ”asshole”, ”creep” ~ Oisín Cantwell, well-known columnist at Sweden’s largest tabloid Aftonbladet. (Publicity photo by Aftonbladet)
”Unprincipled disgusting little creep” ~ Jan Guillou, best-selling author and legendary journalist. (Photo by Anakronfilm/CC-BY-SA-ND)
”Australian pig”, ”repugnant swine” ~ Martin Aagård, journalist at Aftonbladet. (Photo by Per A J Andersson/CC-BY-SA)
”Paranoid querulant”, ”megalomaniac” ~ Martin Jönsson, deputy editor-in-chief of Svenska Dagbladet, a major Swedish daily. (Publicity photo by SvD)
In a controversial statement last week, Swedish Minister of Social Affairs Göran Hägglund called Assange a ”coward” and a ”pitiful wretch” for taking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Hägglund also alleged that Assange was afraid of having ”his case tried by the court”, even though Assange has not been charged with any crime and has not been summoned to court. He added that Assange was a ”scumbag” if the accusations against him were true.
Another official reaction came from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an angry attempt to explain why Assange cannot be questioned in London: ”You do not dictate the terms if you are a suspect. Get it?”, the Ministry declared via its official Twitter channel.
The bulk of the attacks on Assange, however, do not come from government officials, but from journalists and prominent intellectuals. The four major Swedish newspapers – Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Aftonbladet and Expressen – have all roundly condemned the Wikileaks founder, using very strong language. A number of examples are provided below to illustrate the general tone of Swedish media opinion on Assange.
In Sweden’s largest tabloid Aftonbladet, well-known columnist Oisín Cantwell characterized Assange as a ”coward”, a ”creep”, a ”white-haired crackpot” and an ”asshole” because he would rather request asylum from Ecuador than face extradition to Sweden.
Cantwell’s colleague at Aftonbladet, Johanne Hildebrandt, famous for her reporting from the wars in former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, chimed in. ”He’s a paranoid retard who refuses to come to Sweden”, she claimed in a recent column.
Also writing in Aftonbladet, prominent journalist Martin Aagård called Assange an ”Australian pig”. ”There are many good reasons to criticize Assange. One of them is that he’s a repugnant swine”, Aagård elaborated.
In Svenska Dagbladet, a major Stockholm daily, deputy editor-in-chief Martin Jönsson called Assange a ”paranoid querulant” who is to blame for ”letting Wikileaks fall into ruins”. He described Assange’s recent speech from the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy as a ”megalomaniac’s circus”.
The same theme was echoed by an editorial writer in Sweden’s largest daily, Dagens Nyheter, who also called Assange “paranoid”, and a “querulant”.
Jan Guillou, a well-known journalist and probably Sweden’s most famous author, recently proclaimed in Aftonbladet that regardless of ”whether Assange is guilty or not – he’s still an unprincipled disgusting little creep”, adding ”and now I’m holding back”.
Writing in Sweden’s second-largest tabloid, Expressen, TV journalist and news anchor Jenny Strömstedt advocated that Assange should be put on display in a glass cage at Ecuador’s London embassy for the next fifteen years ”so that anyone willing to pay entrance can watch his aging struggles”.
According to Expressen’s culture editor Karin Olsson, Assange is a ”dodgy hacker” whom most Swedes view as ”a paranoid chauvinist pig”. ”A year ago we Swedes hailed Assange as a James Bond of the net. Now he’s seen as a pitiable, paranoid figure”, she writes.
Having previously been portrayed as a romantic rebel, Assange has now become the target of what can only be described as a vicious smear campaign. Legal experts commenting on the accusations against Assange, however, have usually been far from convinced that the prosecutor’s case holds water. For example, Ove Bring, professor emeritus of international law, recently stated that the prosecutor would probably have to drop the case against Assange once he has been questioned, since ”the evidence is not enough to charge him with a crime”.