Tea with Julian Assange: Ten years later

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Many people have exhausted themselves in asking, what makes it so hard for journalists to tell the truth with “clarity and moral force”? Answers range from the conspiratorial—journalists and editors are bought off or coerced—to the mundane: they normalise aberrant behaviour in order to relieve cognitive dissonance and maintain a comfortable status quo.

While the former explanation can’t be dismissed out of hand in the sense that most journalists ultimately work for media megaconglomerates with their own vested interests, the latter is just as often offered by critics like NYU’s Jay Rosen.

Established journalists “want things to be normal,” writes Rosen, which includes preserving access to high-level sources. The press maintains a pretence to objectivity and even-handedness, even when doing so avoids obvious truths about the mendacity of their subjects. Mainstream journalists place “protecting themselves against criticism,” “before serving their readers.

This is troubling because that kind of self-protection has far less legitimacy than the duties of journalism, especially when the criticism itself is barely valid.”

Julian Assange and Wikileaks offered the world true investigative journalism, open and honest. Assange and Wikileaks showed the world the ugly face of war, corruption, greed and politics.

The world opened its eyes for a moment, now the establishment are determined to make sure that brief moment of clarity that blink never happens again.

In 2010 Julian Assange gave an open and frank interview for ‘The Economist’ in that interview the Wikileaks founder and editor stated: “True information does good” ‘We believe, prima facie, that true information does good. Now, true information can also cause harms. So we strip the harm from the information and we release.’

Watch the video

Ten years later Assange sits in Belmarsh prison, he faces being extradited to the United States to spend the rest of his life in prison. The 18 charges against him are the direct result of his having revealed a host of secrets, many of them related to the US prosecution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They included the “collateral murder” video which showed a US helicopter crew shooting 18 people in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters war correspondents, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Among the files were thousands of military dispatches and diplomatic cables that enabled people in scores of countries to perceive the relationships between their governments and the US. They also showed the way in which American diplomats sought to gather personal information about two UN secretary generals.

The WikiLeaks, website publishes anonymously sourced documents, it also released video footage of a US military attack on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

Collateral murder

Press freedom is at risk if we allow Julian Assange’s extradition

Human rights protect press freedom in two very important ways:

  1. Journalists are free to report on issues of public importance
  2. Journalists can almost never be forced to reveal the sources of their information

What Manning and Assange did cannot be construed as espionage. They were casting light on the US government’s murky secrets and, in the case of the collateral murder video, the lengths it was prepared to go in order to cover up a massacre. That’s journalism, pure and simple. Not only should Journalist around the world stand with Julian Assange and this attack on press freedom but everyone that who sits their morning cuppa and wants to read the truth should be outraged at the way the UK and Us government are contriving to silence and punish Julian Assange.

Assange’s extradition means press freedom is at risk, and we should not be persuaded to pass by on the other side of the road.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Ben Wizner:

“Criminally prosecuting a publisher for the publication of truthful information would be a first in American history, and unconstitutional. The government did not cross that Rubicon with today’s indictment, but the worst case scenario cannot yet be ruled out. We have no assurance that these are the only charges the government plans to bring against Mr. Assange. Further, while there is no First Amendment right to crack a government password, this indictment characterizes as ‘part of’ a criminal conspiracy the routine and protected activities journalists often engage in as part of their daily jobs, such as encouraging a source to provide more information. Given President Trump’s and his administration’s well-documented attacks on the freedom of the press, such characterizations are especially worrisome.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

“The potential implications for press freedom of this allegation of conspiracy between publisher and source are deeply troubling,” said Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “With this prosecution of Julian Assange, the U.S. government could set out broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest.”

Reporters Without Borders

“Targeting Assange after nearly nine years because of Wikileaks’ provision of information to journalists that was in the public interest (such as the leaked US diplomatic cables) would be a purely punitive measure and would set a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future. The UK must stick to a principled stance with any related requests from the US to extradite Assange, and ensure his protection under UK and European law relevant to his contributions to journalism”, said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

Amnesty International Ireland

“Amnesty International calls on the UK to refuse to extradite or send in any other manner Julian Assange to the USA where there is a very real risk that he could face human rights violations, including detention conditions that would violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and an unfair trial followed by possible execution, due to his work with Wikileaks.”

Amnesty International Australia

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

“Prosecuting Julian Assange for acts often associated with publishing news of public importance – including sensitive or classified information – has potential to open a dangerous precedent for every news organization,” said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration’s open hostility to ‘mainstream media’ has contributed to an increasingly dangerous environment for investigative journalism worldwide.”

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