STOCKHOLM—WikiLeaks has been monitoring and gathering information on several well-known Swedish journalists who have criticized the organization’s leader, Julian Assange, alleged Swedish newspaper Expressen this week. A WikiLeaks spokesperson has denied knowledge of any such activity.
The report by Expressen, a major Swedish newspaper, has caused a stir in the Swedish press. One of the allegedly monitored journalists is Expressen’s editor-in-chief, Thomas Mattsson.
Expressen’s unnamed sources claim to have seen internal WikiLeaks documents that contained, among other things, information about Mattsson’s private financial situation and pictures of his apartment. Both public records and classified information from Swedish authorities was found among the material, according to Expressen.
Assange is awaiting extradition from the U.K. to Sweden for questioning after two Swedish women accused him of sexual assault. WikiLeaks believes that the case is a conspiracy to have Assange extradited to the United States to face charges over the leaked diplomatic cables the website published, and that the journalists are involved in it, according to sources.
One piece of information the source claimed WikiLeaks had on Mattsson is that his apartment is worth $2 million and since he could never afford that on his salary, he must be receiving money from somewhere else. This is a highly exaggerated amount, according Expressen.
Assange has declined comment on the issue, but WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told Expressen that he has no knowledge of any investigation.
While some Swedish journalists have commented that it is not wrong in itself to investigate journalists, the reports have puzzled most commentators, since none of the journalists have taken a stance against WikiLeaks as an organization. In an editorial on Tuesday, Thomas Mattsson lauded WikiLeaks for its role in exposing U.S. military abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he also accused the organization of paranoia and a lack of insight into how Swedish media operates, if it really believes he would be taking bribes to help discredit WikiLeaks or Assange.
Another well-known Swedish journalist allegedly monitored by WikiLeaks is Ulrika Knutson, who is also chairman of Publicistklubben, an influential journalists’ association dedicated to defending freedom of speech and encouraging journalistic debate.
Knutson was interviewed by Swedish Radio on Tuesday, on a show where she, ironically, had been scheduled to talk about the unauthorized Julian Assange biography.
Knutson said that she had not noticed any surveillance, and didn’t really know what to think. She called the reports in Expressen “vague” and said that she really could not comment further until she had more information.
She did say, however, that if the allegations were true, and she had indeed been monitored, it was “completely ludicrous,” since she has always praised WikiLeaks’ work and defended them from the point of view of free speech, and only criticized Assange and some people around him for having a world view too informed by conspiracy theories.
“If it turns out that they have been monitoring me, I guess this only indicates that I was correct in this regard,” Knutson said.