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Helin: 'Bildt Treats Us with Scorn and Arrogance'

Nothing for beginners? A response from Aftonbladet's editor-in-chief. From March 2013.


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This week Aftonbladet published details about Carl Bildt's contacts with the US during the Swedish government formation in 1976.

Carl Bildt responded by demanding an explanation from Aftonbladet as well as emphasising that 'nailing Carl Bildt down is nothing for beginners'.

That was a bit unexpected. Perhaps not that he speaks of himself in the third person, but that he needs an explanation from journalists is something I couldn't have guessed. The foreign minister himself is absolutely no beginner. But whatever, Carl Bildt, this is the explanation:

The way journalism works is we dig up facts and we publish them if we find them relevant and truthful.

We don't publish things to 'nail' someone. If the facts compromise someone in power, an unpolished reader may get that impression, but that's not the way it is.

On the contrary: digging up and publishing these facts is a part of what we call investigative journalism. This has come to be a crucial part of our western democracies.

It's not unusual that those who are targeted for investigative journalism praise the concept but add that the investigation into their affairs is irrelevant, or claim that they're being persecuted in the media for one reason or another.

So that's the executive summary. If you have any questions, ring me.



Perhaps you should also have a conversation with your political colleague Håkan Juholt. Even if you're not of the same political colour, you seem to have the same attitude about Aftonbladet. Our investigation of his residence benefit, and later his ability to say one thing and mean another, he said was so crazy that it would earn its own place in press history and that researchers had to understand Aftonbladet's behaviour.

You were in the same thought pattern when you called it a 'giant turkey' which would go to 'press history'. Håkan Juholt seems to mean the BIG press history, but it might only be a matter of degrees.

Now to explain this affair. Aftonbladet gained access to US diplomatic reports which showed that you conducted communications with US representative Ronald E Woods on 1 October 1976. According to the document, your information to them was passed on to the US embassy which in turn passed it on to the CIA.

The reports were about the formation of the new Swedish government and the nuclear energy issue. The source for these reports is WikiLeaks. Can this organisation want to smear Sweden's foreign minister? Perhaps. It was therefore important for Aftonbladet to corroborate the document. This is however no uncommon situation, but bias doesn't necessarily mean the documents we look at are not truthful and relevant.

In this case, Aftonbladet found Ronald E Woods and interviewed him. He corroborates the conversation with Carl Bildt and his forwarding of the information.

We can therefore conclude that the basic facts in our story are correct. The conversation did in fact take place, and the details of this conversation were sent on to the CIA.

Is this relevant? It happened a long time ago and so it's difficult to rate the relevance of the information, but this is about Sweden's current foreign minister, and the conversation concerned secret Swedish government deliberations.

Crucial for my decision to publish was that the party leaders back then, both Torbjörn Fälldin and Per Ahlmark, in new interviews with our reporter, corroborate that the government deliberations were indeed secret and that no one had of course approved leaking this information to the CIA through Carl Bildt.

So what it all boils down to is the question of which nation Carl Bildt was being loyal to back then.



And there are therefore pertinent questions to ask of the foreign minister.

These questions have you, Carl, answered with scorn and arrogance towards your own colleagues. In a way that has come to be typical for you, you dismiss our publication with somewhat entertaining but conceited rhetoric about a smear campaign, you take words out of context and take it all down to technicalities - all in order to evade the actual question.

That's really bad behaviour and I'd really like an explanation.

If you have any questions, you're welcome to pop into our new TV studio.

We can discuss this further at that time and let the public listen.

PS. I'm no beginner.

Postscript: 1976STOCKH05429

1. BEGIN SUMMARY. THE LADERS OF THE LIBERAL, CENTER AND MODERATE PARTIES, TOGETHER WITH THEIR CLOSEST AIDES, CONTINUE TO WORK LATE INTO THE NIGHT IN THEIR EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH A COHESIVE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. INFORMATION ON THE PROGRESS OF THE TALKS CONTINUES TO BE VERY CLOSELY HELD, BUT SOURCES CLOSE TO THE NEGOTIATIONS INFORM US THAT THE PARTY LEADERS HAVE PASSED THE MAJOR OBSTACLE POSED BY THE NUCLEAR ENERGY ISSUE, THAT THERE WILL BE A THREE-PARTY GOVERNMENT, AND THAT DISCUSSIONS ARE PROGRESSING SATISFACTORILY. END SUMMARY.

2. THE RIKSDAG WILL OPEN ON OCTOBER 4 IN A SHORT CEREMONY WHICH WILL FOLLOW THE ELECTION OF A NEW SPEAKER, WHO WILL BE OFFICIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR SUPERVISING THE GOVERNMENT FORMATION. IT IS EXPECTED THAT CENTER PARTY LEADER THORBJORN FALLDIN WILL BE ELECTED PRIME MINISTER LATER IN THE WEEK, AND WILL THEN OFFICIALLY PRESENT THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAM ON OCTOBER 8. PRESS REPORTS INDICATE THAT THE RIKSDAG GROUPS OF THE RESPECTIVE PARTIES WILL BE INFORMALLY BRIEFED OCTOBER 4 ON THE OUTLINE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM AND COMPOSITION.

3. CARL BILDT, AIDE TO MODERATE PARTY LEADER GOSTA BOYMAN, CONFIDED TO POLITICAL COUNSELOR AND EUR/NE DEPUTY DIRECTOR WOODS THAT TENTATIVE AGREEMENT HAD BEEN REACHED ON THE NUCLEAR ENERGY ISSUE, AND THAT DISCUSSION HAS TURNED TO SPECIFICS OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT. BILDT SAID HE UNDERSTOOD THAT UNDER COMPROMISE SOLUTION REACHED BY THE THREE LEADERS, TWO NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS (BARSEBACK II AND RINGHALS III) WOULD NOT BE CHARGED AT LEAST UNTIL 1978, DESPITE THE FACT THAT BARSEBACK II IS SCHEDULED TO BE LEADED THIS MONTH. NO NEW PLANTS WOULD BE CONSTRUCTED. IN ADDITION, A ROYAL COMMISSION WOULD BE APPOINTED TO STUDY ALL ASPECTS OF NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS AND WOULD BE CHARGED TO REPORT IN TIME FOR THE 1978 MAJOR DEBATE IN THE RIKSDAG ON ENERGY POLICY. BILDT ADDED THAT THE COALITION WOULD NOT BE ADVERSE TO HOLDING APUBLIC REFERENDUM ON THE ENTIRE QUESTION OF THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR POWER IN SWEDEN AFTER THE INVESTIGATIVE COMMISION SUBMITS ITS REPORT.

4. BILDT ALSO STATED THERE WILL IN FACT BE A THREE-PARTY GOVERNMENT, ALTHOUGH ALLOCATION OF POSITIONS AND PERCENTAGE OF REPRESENTATION WAS STILL UNDER DISCUSSION. HE STATED THAT NEW GOVERNMENT HAS EVERY CHANCE OF REMAING IN POWER AT LEAST UNTIL 1982 IF THE SOLUTION TO THE NUCLEAR PROBLEM CAN BE RECONCILED WITH THE DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES OF THE COALITION PARTNERS, WHICH HE BELIEVES IS LIKELY IF THE COMPROMISE PLAN IS IMPLEMENTED.

5. COMMENT: FALLDIN'S AGREEMENT TO THIS COMPROMISE WILL SEEM TO SOME OF HIS MORE RABID ANTI-NUCLEAR SUPPORTERS TO BE A RETREAT, THOUGH IN HIS MORE MODERATE MOMENTS IN THE CAMPAIGN HE DID INDICATE HE WOULD GO ALONG WITH THE IDEA OF AN INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION. HE WILL THUS PROBABLY FACE SOME CRITICISM, BUT MOST SWEDES ARE LIKELY TO ACCEPT THIS SOLUTION AS MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION. SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CAN BE EXPECTED TO ASK WHERE SWEDEN IS GOING TO GET ADEQUATE ENERGY FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS, GIVEN THE DELAY AND POSSIBLE CANCELLATION OF NUCLEAR ENERGY EXPANSION PROGRAM.

SMITH

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