Sweden's stringent whistleblower laws are protecting the anonymity of sources that have been feeding the controversial Wikileaks website with sensitive government and corporate information, according to Swedish political sources.
A law that was intended to protect sources providing information to journalists is protecting the Wikileaks website, which the United States Army highlighted as a threat to its operations in a report last month.
Wikileaks is benefiting form Sweden's basic law – Grundlag – on the freedom of print information, because it also guarantees the anonymity of sources in digital media, say sources at the European Parliament.
In Sweden, if a website registers with the public authorities and can prove it has an editor-in-chief, then it can also be protected under the law, argues the parliamentary source.
Belgium comes a close second to Sweden's laws on the protection of sources because its law has also been extended to digital media, adds Philippe Leruth from the European Federation of Journalists' steering committee.
Wikileaks' data is stored in several countries across the world. According to leading Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, a large proportion of the data is stored in Sweden and a number of leading US media have singled out the Internet web hosting company PRQ as the primary "web hotel".
PRQ was started and is currently run by Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Fredrik Neij, already known as the controversial co-founders of filesharing website the Pirate Bay (EurActiv 22/04/09).
The PRQ founders, who are operating from an undisclosed location, were not available for comment at time of writing.
The company was selected by Wikileaks because Sweden is one of the few countries in the world whose laws guarantee total anonymity of sources.
The site, which leaked video footage showing the US army killing 12 people, including two Reuters journalists in 2007, is fast becoming a thorn in the side of the US administration, among other governments.
"If it is legal in Sweden, we will host it, and we will keep it up regardless of any pressure to take it down," reads a disclaimer on the site.
The site is also fast becoming the envy of journalists lamenting court orders preventing them from obtaining sensitive documents or footage for news reporting.
In addition, Wikileaks' viewers arguably far surpass readers of the world's most dominant newspapers, point out analysts.
The video of the US army attack has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube, in addition to hundreds of screenings in television news reports.
Belgium and Sweden are among the few EU countries that have laws explicitly protecting journalists' sources. In Sweden, if a journalist reveals sources without their approval, the reporter can be sent to jail.
WikiLeaks was founded by an Australian activist and journalist, Julian Assange. The site recently decrypted a shocking video showing the US military killing 12 people including two Reuters reporters. Reuters had unsuccessfully tried for two and a half years to obtain the Iraq video through the Freedom of Information Act.
Leaked documents about toxic dumping in Africa, official papers from Guantanamo Bay and emails from Sarah Palin's personal email account count among the site's accomplishments so far, according to media reports.
In 2008, an American judge reversed his decision to shut down the site for leaking secret papers concerning a subsidiary of a Swiss bank because the same material was accessible on a number of other “mirror sites.”
The site relies on financial support from big media like the Associated Press and the LA Times and invites supporters to provide technical support like servers, storage space and software development work. Its servers are reportedly based in Belgium, Sweden and the US.
Industry federations and trade unions
- European Federation of Journalists:EFJ Policy Document on Protection of Sources
- European Federation of Journalists:An International Survey of Protections and Threats to Journalists’ Sources
- EurActiv Slovakia:Švédske zákony chránia WikiLeaks