Confessed Oslo attacker Anders Behring Breivik mentioned journalism conferences that attract droves of reporters and editors from around the globe as major targets for possible attacks to advance his xenophobic, right-wing agenda.
In his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik called these gatherings “THE MOST attractive targets for large scale shock attacks" of what he deemed "category B traitors."
The screed, titled 2083 European Declaration of Independence, detailed a potential attack on an annual gathering of journalists in Oslo hosted by SKUP, a volunteer group that promotes investigative and critical journalism in the Norwegian press. Breivik said his goal is to cause "maximum casualties." He outlined a plan to use explosives to first collapse the conference building, then employ flamethrowers, assault rifles and grenades in “executing survivors of the initial blast(s).”
Taking advantage of “light or non-existent security,” the conference would have been a “perfect target” of category B traitors, a group Breivik characterized as the second most influential tier in society. More than 700 journalists attended SKUP’s most recent conference in April.
SKUP’s chairwoman, Heidi Molstad Andresen, said that, while slightly shaken by the baleful mention, she’ll use it as an opportunity to speak to fellow journalists. She posted a statement on SKUP’s website and several journalism organizations’ listervs and Facebook walls.
“It’s meant as a reminder to our colleagues who are putting their lives at risk all the time ... that we ourselves can be targets,” Andresen told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. “We are used to putting on our bullet proof vests and helmets, to go report in dangerous zones, but this proves that we can be targets as well in our small, peaceful counties. The free word is a threat itself to somebody. They want to shut our mouths.”
She said, contrary to Breivik’s claim, security precautions are taken at SKUP conferences, especially when high-profile or controversial guests attend. Last April, for example, Israeli Army spokesperson Avital Leibowitz addressed the gathering. The SKUP conference also hosted Julian Assange two years ago, before the Wikileaks founder had publicly released a video of a U.S. helicopter attack on civilians and journalists from Reuters in Iraq.
The conference, pulled together by “hundreds and thousands” of volunteer hours by journalists who also juggle full time jobs, is “about sharing the message about democracy and freedom of speech,” Andresen said.
“To make that kind of initiative a goal of terrorism kind of shows the absurdity of all of it,” said Andersen, who is a reporter for Dagbladet, Norway’s third largest newspaper.
Breivik, who today pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism, has been denied his request for an open court hearing. He will be kept in complete isolation for a month. Letters, visitors and journalists are banned until September 26.
Breivik's combined violent efforts, several bombings and a shooting spree at a youth convention, are responsible for a current count of 76 deaths with several people still missing. Norway has no death penalty. The maximum prison sentence in the country is 21 years.