Wikileaks

Aftenposten, Assange and the Redemption of Johannes Wahlstrom

by Joseph W

AFP reports:

As if there isn’t enough intrigue around Wikileaks and its enigmatic founder, a Norwegian daily that laid hands on the same US classified documents says it has infuriated Julian Assange by playing his own game.

Since last December, the daily Aftenposten, the Nordic country’s paper of reference, has been “leaking” the Wikileaks diplomatic secrets but according to its own choice and pace — independent of the script set by Assange in a deal with five world-renowned papers.

Only three staff members know how Aftenposten obtained the documents — thought exclusive to Wikileaks — and won’t let on.

“This took quite a lot of work,” news editor Ole Erik Almlid told AFP. “Let’s just say that we didn’t get it through an email that went astray.

“But we did not pay for it, no conditions have been attached and we can publish exactly what we want following our regular strict editorial criteria,” he said.

This story first broke in late December. By early January, Aftenposten editor Hilder Haugsgjerd was claiming that Julian Assange was ‘angry’ about all these documents reaching Aftenposten. Assange hit back by claiming that Aftenposten was just a regular media partner of Wikileaks – a claim that Aftenposten flatly rejected.

We know that the only person with access to all the cables in Scandinavia is Johannes Wahlstrom, the son of neo-Nazi fascist writer “Israel Shamir“. Shamir is Wikileaks’ source in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Today, the Guardian reveals that Assange paid Shamir two thousand euros to distribute Wikileaks cables in Russia, merely describing Shamir as a “controversial figure”.

Wahlstrom himself is a decidedly unpleasant character, having fallen from grace in 2006 when he published an article in a left-wing Swedish magazine accusing Israeli Jews of harvesting Palestinian organs, and then complaining that the Jews censored Sweden’s media and prevented the story from getting out. More on that later.

According to the Norwegian Union of Journalists – who recently hosted Wahlstrom as a guest speaker – Wahlstrom:

‘made an agreement this past year with Wikileaks in order to gain exclusive access to the documents and the right to decide who they will be distributed to.’

Johannes Wahlstrom seems to have played some part in Aftenposten’s obtaining of the documents. Earlier this month, Wahlstrom was featured in Norwegian paper Journalisten:

Johannes Wahlström (29) was the contact when the joint Swedish Television, Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet got access to parts of WikiLeaks’ enormous diplomatic leaks. He has collaborated with VG about some of their articles. Freelance coach is the son of the highly controversial writer Israel Shamir, and critics suggest that he has a political agenda.

He says Swedish journalist that he has acted like all freelancers with access to the sensational material would. He has shared it with interested editors and made assignments for them en route. – “I have not sold a database”, Wahlström told our journalist.

When Wahlström met Julian Assange in England on Tuesday, he was given the impression that Aftenposten would report back to the WikiLeaks when the newspaper has investigated and published its reports,and Wikileaks representative would get to review the paper’s editorial. This was rejected by Hilde Haugsgjerd.

“Talking about a partnership between WikiLeaks and Aftenposten are maybe right, maybe wrong. If you have the material, one is sort of a partner”, according to Wahlström.

Aftenposten recently wrote of  Wahlstrom:

The Swedish freelance journalist has been given access to the entire diplomatic leak from Wikileaks, and has provided some of this material on to multiple media in Norway and Sweden.

[…]

Freelance journalist met Julian Assange in 2008. According to Wahlström, Assange searched for unknown contacts in Sweden because he was seeking opportunities to move the organization there. Close contact for it, led to a partnership in which Wahlström, among other things, gained access to all the 251,287 telegrams from diplomatic leak last year.

– I started to read through as much as possible about matters of Sweden and Norway and made an assessment of what was interesting for various media, “he said.

Wahlstrom has recently been hosted by the Norwegian Union of Journalists, and has also been given a positive write-up by Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende, who describe Wahlstrom as “the brains behind Wikileaks in Norway”.

This represents a major turn-around in the way Wahlstrom is perceived as a journalist and thinker in Scandinavia.

Wahlstrom first surfaced in 2006, when he wrote an article accusing the Jews of controlling Sweden’s media, and stopping Swedes from learning about Israel harvesting organs. He wrote in “left-wing” publication Ordfront:

The impact of Israeli censorship on Swedish editors is from unusual, if you believe the reporter and photographer Donald Bostrom who depicted the conflict since 1985.

When Donald Bostrom managed to smuggle out the graphic evidence of the ripped-up Palestinian, his body stolen, it was nothing more than a scoop. After being assaulted by the military and having his camera confiscated, he managed to save some pictures and escape the Israeli censor. In Dagens Nyheter’s offices, editorial staff did not want to do with them.

– They explained that they did not want the trouble the pictures would give rise to, Donald Bostrom recalled.

In other words, the government censors the best material in consultation with the Swedish editors, all out of fear of offending Israel.

Bostrom, you may recall, eventually did get taken seriously in the Swedish press. In August 2009, he published a piece in the popular Swedish paper Aftenbladet accusing Israeli doctors of harvesting Palestinian organs. This caused an uproar among Jewish groups worldwide, with one Israeli foreign office spokesperson calling the article a modern-day blood libel.

It is revealing that Wahlstrom was lobbying for such an article to be published, way back in 2006. Wahlstrom’s article also explicitly accused Israel’s regime of controlling the Swedish media – a claim supported by his father; an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who allies himself with Spanish and Austrian neo-fascists. Wahlstrom has claimed that his father is the Swedish equivalent of Salman Rushdie.

What I find most interesting is the angle that Aftenposten has taken in its release of Wikileaks cables. The Aftenposten cables that have gained global attention have been the ones involving Israel. Aftenposten released one cable about Israel’s intentions in stifling the Gazan economy picked up by Reuters, and a cable about possible Israeli responses to Iranian nuclear strike which was also mentioned by the Washington Post.

As Aftenposten has gained world attention for its release of fresh cables, Wahlstrom’s star has risen. Wahlstrom’s address to the Norwegian Union of Journalists must be a defining moment in his journey from a disgraced journalist imagining Israeli Jews harvesting Palestinian organs to becoming “the brain of Wikileaks in Norway.”

The Wahlstrom controversy has not escaped the attention of others in the Scandinavian media. Axess TV complained about Wahlstrom’s employment with Swedish public television network SVT:

Why were questions not asked of SVT on numerous occasions, hiring a journalist who not only has written anti-Semitic pamphlets, but who cooperates with and pay tributes to people who cooperate with the fascist movements, with KKK members and Holocaust deniers? How can SVT fairly report about an organization whose leaders and partners have acted in a way that – so far – has proven to be beneficial for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, President of Belarus Lukashenko and the old Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe? And why does almost everyone in the Swedish journalist collective seem so submissive to Wikileaks? How can it be that so few Swedish journalists react against people who cooperate with KKK leaders and Russian fascist patriots?

I doubt these questions will bother Wahlstrom, who rather worries that Zionists in Sweden are censoring the truth about Israel and muzzling the Western media. Julian Assange appears to share these concerns.

Earlier this year, Wahlstrom interviewed Assange for Aftonbladet, calling him “the Internet’s James Bond.” Yet Assange is far more a Bond villain than 007 himself, as is becoming more and more evident to the watching world.

The Guardian reveals today:

Assange initially rejected pleas to redact documents to protect sources. At an early meeting with international reporters in a restaurant he told them: ” ‘Well, they’re informants,’ he said. ‘So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.’ There was, for a moment, silence around the table.”

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