NGOs and research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden

Note: Portions of this text are published as separate posts. Observe the links to read the full text.

In Sweden and many other places elsewhere in the West, there are forces in the society that have been suppressing a free discussion about the Ukrainian crisis. In Sweden, our efforts to use our right of freedom of expression have been met by a wide range of methods to silence opposition against the Ukrainian crisis policy of Sweden.

Opposing peace initiatives is a way to promote closer relationship with NATO

From the very start of the Ukrainian conflict, forces in the Swedish society that want closer ties to NATO have been using methods to silence voices for peace. Any attempt to promote constructive solutions to the Ukrainian crisis and dialogue across the front lines between West and East has been stamped as acts in the interest of Russia or very often involving an allegation of “Putin agents.” This smear campaign includes the former international diplomat Hans Blix – a liberal well known after his role as head of the team controlling weapons of mass destruction facilities in Iraq and opposing the war in 2003. It also includes Sven Hirdman – a conservative former Swedish ambassador to Russia – and several former social democratic ministers.

A massive consensus in main stream media has almost on a daily basis, often several times during the same day, presented Russia – frequently personalized by Putin – as a threat against Sweden, peace and the world. The crisis in Ukraine is used as the constant argument why Russia should be regarded as an aggressive part while Sweden is only defender of human rights and international order.

The state funded NGO ABF stopped an exhibition about Odessa and Donbass

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From a short documentary shown during Swedish exhibitions on Odessa and Donbass, February 2015.

In 2015, a photo exhibition about the Odessa massacre and photos from civilians suffering during the war in Donbass was cancelled by the largest state funded educational organization in Sweden – ABF in Malmö and in Helsingborg.

Read more by following this link.

The Swedish left made itself passive

The left has allowed itself to be silenced about the Ukrainian conflict by a state funded anarcho-syndicalist newspapers and NGOs. While the Odessa massacre sparked a wide interest in different Swedish left-wing circles, several Swedish neo-Nazi activists went to Ukraine to take part in the war against Donbass in volunteer battalions. This interest among leftists was quickly undermined and turned into passivity.

Read more by following this link.

State funded Swedish NGOs turn a blind eye to systematic violations of human right

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The Swedish NGOs that don’t see, don’t hear and don’t speak.
Source: Aktivister för fred.

The NGOs Östgruppen för demokrati och rättigheter and Ordfront also systematically together with PEN Sweden, silenced any knowledge from their websites about the systematic violations of human rights in Ukraine while, together with hundreds of cases in Russia, violations against human rights in DPR and LPR as well as Crimea gets extensive coverage by these organizations.

There is not a single case from Ukraine reported since the overthrow of Yanukovych in February 2014 until 2017. This is silenced while presidential candidates were violently attacked several times, four opposition parties got their offices stormed by the right-wing extremists, their membership register stolen or were stopped from acting openly by other means. Also, secret prisons are run by the Ukrainian security police and mass murder takes place with the consent of the government.

NGOs act against a documentary exposing fascist violence in Ukraine

Read more by following this link.

Egor Putilov becomes useful again during summer 2016

There are many outlandish “too good to be true” stories in the way Swedish mainstream media and politicians tried to silence the Swedish peace opposition. One of the most outlandish is the way Egor Putilov has been used by these stories several times. First, he was used as a journalist in the left-wing media and the biggest daily exposing “pseudo” left activists who, as he put it, was controlled by Putin. That those accused by Putilov as Sachnin who is a political refugee from Russian Left front are in opposition to Putin in close cooperation with equally oppositional Borotba party in Ukraine is no to be taken into consideration.  As long  as, they were critical against the new government in Ukraine, they were portrayed as nothing less then Putin’s agents. This is a message well received by many mainstream media journalists, and especially those promoting Swedish-NATO membership.

 

Read more by following this link.

The Swedish Institute for International Affairs research scandal

Could it be worse? Yes, it could. On the January, 5 2017, Martin Kragh and Sebastian Åsberg at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, one of them also at the Uppsala University, published an article in an international journal of strategic studies. The title was ”Russia’s strategy for influence through public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case

Read more by following this link.

Summary

Different actors in Sweden constitute a powerful tool, by means which are questionable in a democratic culture. They have been stopping or marginalizing the opposition against the Swedish-Ukrainian policy and a foreign policy moving Sweden closer and closer to NATO and its key member nations.

Some, like researchers at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs and a journalist at Expressen, acts in interplay with each other. Others, without necessarily knowing of each other’s motives or relationships, are also active. The fact that several of these actors are state funded does not necessarily mean they are acting together. The combined effect is still there. By using their overwhelming amount of resources of paid work and well-funded influential institutions they bias the foreign policy discussions. Certain issues such as the fascist violence and systematic violations of human rights in Ukraine are turned into taboo issues. Meanwhile those trying to create a democratic discussion are demonized as agents of a foreign country, quite often derogatorily portrayed as personal servants to the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The high level of obfuscation among the different roles for actors in the media, research institutions, state funded educational organisations, NGOs, business funded think-tanks and security authorities is worrisome. The way Expressen’s journalist Olsson tries to hide the fake research about the Crimean meeting is not acceptable in a democratic country. The trust for how media and research is supposed to be built on specific rules for criticism of the sources used and evaluation of their relevance is central. In this case, these certain rules are instead used to maximize the sensation by an interplay between research discourse and journalistic discourse enabling character assassinations of those standing up in the opposition to Swedish foreign policy.

This is also happening at an international level. It is carried out by old and new institutions such as the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom) – a centre also supported by Sweden – and East Stratcom which is set up by EU to disorient criticism against EU and NATO. They use the alleged Russian disinformation and misinformation and this makes the situation more dangerous. The Swedish research paper paid by the Swedish Institite for International Affairs and Uppsala University is used as a final scientific proof to legitimize the claim that Russia is secretly intervening in an undemocratic way into other countries. This shows how a Western narrative building on a fake scientific publication is contributing to a replacement of an open public debate with produced enemy images both within and between societies.

The speed with which this is done causes concern. Claims have so far been made in many countries that a systematic interference takes place, but scientific research based on case studies to put light on the central actors and their interplay in a whole country have so far been missing. The Swedish study has been downloaded more than 30 000 times and this shows the great interest for and the influence of the article. It is used to legitimize claims stating there is a serious Russian threat which is said to be helped by domestic supporters of a Russian narrative. Thus, it is used for showing the need to rearm Western countries. It undermines efforts to find conflict resolutions and is damaging to European and world peace. This is contrary to what is needed; negotiations with Donbass and, not to talk about, efforts to build solidarity across the divide at state level and replacement of aggression with peace initiatives.

The extreme lack of quality and even outright fake content in the report from the Swedish Institute for International Affairs as well as the interplay with Expressen to maximize the damage against the accused is an opportunity to challenge the way peace movements in Europe are silenced. Mistakes in the so-called research publication and the subsequent article in Expressen building upon the background material of the first are so grave that it is hard not to avoid laughing at the pretentious way the authors present their material.

Assessing the way pro-peace sentiment has been suppressed in Sweden and demonized by a combination of several active measures could inspire comparisons with what is going on in other countries. The way this suppression of peace voices has been carried out by different actors who claim to be the main protectors of free speech in Sweden and human rights everywhere is a lesson as important in Sweden as elsewhere. So is the growing conflation between business sponsored think-tanks, state security interest, top level politicians, research centers and media.

It is about time that people’s movements come together and refuse to be used as pawns in state security games. The Swedish case since 2014 show attempts to silence the pro-peace voices with the article as a climax. This can be both a serious and a humoristic example for others to wake up and act. The far-reaching claim built on fake science to produce a caricature of the peace opinion tells us more about the authors then the accused. Both interplaying researchers and journalists succumb to an outdated guilt by association method having nothing to do in neither a scientific method or serious journalism. When the British defense minister recently used the Swedish study to make a point, it shows the weakness of those that focus on creating enemy images wherever they look.

They will not succeed. The consensus-oriented Sweden has produced a scandal research article and a tabloid scoop that shows that the emperor is naked. His clothes are tailored by NGOs, think-tanks, the most prestigious research institute, a highly-regarded university, mass media, defense authorities, ministers and political party leaders. A country claiming to be interested in peace and conflict resolutions as well as humanitarian aid have shown that the opposite is the case.

We are determined to change that. We are convinced that people in common still think peace and conflict resolutions are more important than rearmament and militarization or demonizing those supporting dialogue and friendship across borders.

We take the accusations against us and the attempts to silence peace opinion in Sweden seriously. At the same time, we have hard time keeping ourselves from laughing. The clash between established research and media institutions claiming a strict adherence to criticism of sources transforms the emptiness of the sensational claims into a great humor. It is hard to ever find in Sweden or elsewhere a so-called scientific article written, within it is own field, by a top-level researcher with so many fake facts and systematic lack of consistent method as well as lack of empirical and theoretical quality.

It is no coincidence that the almost two-hour long podcast made by two academics from Umeå University, who produce the most acknowledged media criticism in Sweden, ended with a laughter. It was at that point, when the scrutiny reached the fact that Kragh and Åsberg had used both Putilov accusations against leftists for being Putin agents as well as the later accusations against himself for being a Putin agent. Journalists who made a big story of Putilov as a significant large Russian threat to the security of Sweden did everything they could to conceal that they, about a year earlier, had spread Putilov’s accusation against others for being Putin agents. Kragh and Åsberg explicitly use contradictory statements linked to Putilov. This regards Putilov’s earlier allegations about others as Putin agents and then, in the second part of the course of events, revelations of himself as a probable Putin agent. Both are regarded as two equally important justifications of Russian infiltration of Sweden. The authors did this by hiding that their source for the first accusation comes from Putilov. They refer to a rewritten article in The Local instead of referring to the original source. This is the reason why the academics from Umeå University cannot stop themselves from laughing.

The silencing of the peace opinion is in Sweden is not necessarily well organized. Clearly it is very effective. At the surface, it looks very homogenous and orchestrated. It is quite clear from several cases that the group of anonymous journalists, researchers and others who, according to Kragh, have been observing the main actors trying to challenge the Swedish foreign policy towards Ukraine and Russia are acting coherently.

Yet it can also be seen that there is no total coherence. Stefan Olsson, a prominent founder of the business think tank Frivärld (In English: Free world) and a writer in main stream media on defense issues, has opposed others within the inner circle when they questioned the Odessa massacre that was viewed as a mere extension of street violence provoked by pro-Russian forces. He instead claimed more correctly that it was an attack by a right-wing mob against the people hiding in the house of trade union. The moral guilt of the attackers committing the mass murder is clearly stated.

In this case, Olsson did not participate in the attempts of others to turn the event into the opposite, as an act that those killed in the house of trade union brought it about on themselves. Olsson has written a book about Russian influence in Sweden. According to him the fascist influence in Ukraine is grossly overrated by voices opposing the Swedish foreign policy. In parallel, Olsson’s diverts from the mainstream Ukrainian version of the Odessa events. This shows that there is no consistent homogeneous narrative that is orchestrated from behind.

The same can be said about silencing the public opinion. Ukrainian organizations with the support of the local newspaper tried to stop a piano concert by world famous Ukrainian Valentina Lisitsa, who is accused of tweeting anti-Ukrainian propaganda. They were ignored by the organisers. Attacks were also made against a speech about Swedish foreign policy in the state funded Folkets hus (In English: The People’s house) in Karlskrona. This is yet another organisation that is supposed to support the freedom of speech and provide localities for doing so. These attempts at silencing an opinion were also ignored. The speech was given in spite of that the speaker had quite opposing views from the local social democrats in charge of the localities. The local papers aggressively questioned the speaker, but there were also extensive letters sent to the editor defending the speaker. The actual article about the speech was an unbiased traditional journalism.

The main trend has been to silence the opposition either by refusing it from having a voice in a wider public discourse or by belittling of those that have been able to raise their voice. In general, all the Swedish peace movements have been under attack or systematically ignored.

But the inner core of journalists, researchers and others that have been organising the most malignant attacks against the opposition is not all the time fully supported by the very many that follow the consensus mentality so prominent in Sweden. This has been clearly demonstrated in the case of the article by Åsberg and Kragh. Here also main critics of Russia have stood up claiming that the accusations have gone to far. Yet, this defense of the opposition has been mainly limited to journalists while activists accused has not received the same support.

What especially stands out in the Swedish case is the way PEN Sweden, Ordfront and Östgruppen för demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter systematically have been ignoring human right violations in Ukraine. Ordfront and Östgruppen have even actively opposed that a documentary about these abuses and about fascist violence in Ukraine would be screened without interference from the kind of expertise they themselves represent. Ordfront and Östgruppen is a disgrace to the support of universal human rights in Sweden and to the international human rights NGO community. They have been stimulating passivity in Sweden in relation to both human rights violations in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Donbass.

That the anti-peace actors have acted so aggressively showing a lack of living up to their own standards of strict adherence to criticism, the importance of research quality as well as journalism quality or NGO advocacy is somewhat a surprise. The coming period will see if they have overreached their influence and will continue their refusal to answer the most serious criticism. An open letter to Östgruppen about their campaign against the French documentary remains unanswered. The same applies to the questioning of how Expressen is hiding fake science in the report from researchers at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.

Maybe the extreme positions taken by some of the key NGOs, journalists and researchers have come to a point where they cannot be sustained anymore. But then, help is needed also internationally. What are under attack in Sweden are not only Swedish actors but also peace actors, environmental and the social cooperation between many different popular movements with their international connections. Only when the international social movements question the way pro-peace opinion have been silenced by NGOs, mainstream journalists and researchers can the situation substantially be changed.

 

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