Assange: Swedish press freedoms 'most proven'
Published: 16 Aug 2010 14:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Aug 2010 14:56 GMT+02:00
Julian Assange, the Australian founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has praised Swedish legislation protecting the freedom of the press but says that other countries, such as Iceland, are also working to improve their legal framework.
Speaking in a series of online chats with Swedish readers in major newspapers on Monday, Assange was asked why the WikiLeaks locates its main servers in Sweden and why legislation protecting the anonymity of sources makes the country a good choice for the website.
"It is true we also use other locations, but Sweden is, so far, the most proven in practice. It is not perfect and initiatives like the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative show that others are also looking to improve on Swedish laws which have set strong examples." Assange said according to Svenska Dagbladet.
Assange said that he understood the dangers of the FRA signals surveillance law but also the advantages for Sweden in "gaining information to 'trade' with the United States and other intelligence agencies. He also claimed that the website is well versed in evading surveillance of its communications.
"Because we are routinely the target of intelligence agencies which do not obey the rule of law, our security design presumes that all incoming and going communication to our servers is monitored...We have a number of different methods to also conceal the source and destination of the communications," he said.
The controversial law, passed in October 2009, gives sweeping surveillance powers to Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt – FRA).
Assange, who has gained worldwide attention since WikiLeaks' publication of the so-called Afghan War Diary last month, confirmed that the website planned to release the remaining 15,000 classified documents it holds within "the next two to four weeks".
Talking to Aftonbladet readers Assange claimed that "as far as we know" no one has been harmed by the publication of the documents, and expressed defiance at US government attempts to silence him and WikiLeaks.
"Nothing stimulates the mind like a superpower trying to set into motion an extradition for espionage," he said.
Assange told Swedish readers that he started WikiLeaks to address "global injustices" that he couldn't see how to solve with "conventional journalism or human rights activism".
"The truth is all we have. If we are to get anywhere as a civilization, we must understand the world and how it operates, anything else is drifting in a dark sea," he said according to Dagens Nyheter.
The Local reported on Sunday that Assange had confirmed that WikiLeaks plans to submit a formal application this week for a Swedish publishing licence (utgivningsbevis) in order to guarantee that the website is covered by Swedish whistleblower protection laws.
Assange, in Sweden as a guest of the Association of Christian Social Democrats, highlighted the importance of the country to WikiLeaks' work during his stay.
"Sweden is vital for our work. We have had long-term support from the Swedish people and the Swedish legal system. Our servers were initially based in the United States and moved to Sweden early on in 2007," he said.
Legal experts have speculated recently that the site may not be covered by Swedish legislation shielding journalists' sources unless it obtains a publishing licence.