Russia and Iran suspected of disinformation campaign against Sweden

TT/The Local
TT/The Local - [email protected]
Russia and Iran suspected of disinformation campaign against Sweden
Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin (left) and temporary General-Director of the Psychological Defence Agency Magnus Hjort (right) at a press conference. Photo: Mikaela Landeström/TT

Individual actors supported by Russia and Iran are leading an extensive disinformation campaign against Sweden, according to the Psychological Defence Agency which has now been tasked with tackling disinformation on Quran burnings in the country.


Influence campaigns against Sweden have escalated following the most recent spate of Quran burnings in the country, although the situation is calmer than it was during the summer.

"There is a lot of criticism and denouncement [of Sweden], as well as boycott threats and calls to attack Sweden and Swedes," Magnus Hjort, temporary director-general of the Psychological Defence Agency, said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The agency has now been tasked with countering disinformation about the Quran burnings, which it will work on alongside a previous assignment to counter foreign influence campaigns against Sweden targeting the Swedish social services.

"These two campaigns are linked, we can see that the same actors who were acting against the social services in 2022 are now spreading a wider narrative that Sweden is Islamophobic," Hjort said.

This summer, the government linked Russian-backed actors to the spreading of disinformation in Sweden, with Iran now believed to also be involved.

"Iran is acting to strengthen its position in the region and in the world, and in order to appear an important protector of Islam," Hjort said.

This includes a wide range of actions, such as official statements from state representatives and state-backed media, to hidden actions carried out by third parties and activity on social media.

Hjort believes that the actors in question have the long-term goal to drive "a serious wedge" between the West and the Middle East.

"None of these actors have reached their goal, but they are persistent, as we also have to be," he said.


He added when questioned by Swedish newswire TT that it is not possible to get these international groups or actors to back town.

"What we can do is strengthen our work, analyse and evaluate how this is being spread. Stopping these actors is very difficult, their agendas aren't going to change and influence campaigns are a part of their toolkit whatever we do," he said.

Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin, who was also at the press conference, announced a proposal that the agency be allocated a further eight million kronor next year.

"Today's announcement will also benefit other agencies and, above all, those of us who want to live in a democracy undamaged by disinformation targeting Sweden," he said.


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