We are witnessing a sudden seachange in global support for Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who has spent the last three years in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London while pending resolution of attempts by the US to extradite him. If Assange is extradited, he could spend 175 years in prison — simply for publishing information! However, even the New York Times and the top journals in England, France, Germany, and Spain finally came to his defense this week, saying “Publishing is not a crime”.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday said that he has personally asked the US government to drop its case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is an Australian citizen. Albanese, who previously rejected public pressure to push for Assange’s release, said that he raised the issue with US officials in recent meetings. “The government will continue to act in a diplomatic way, but can I assure the member … that I have raised this personally with representatives of the United States government,” Albanese said…
Albanese’s comments came after The New York Times and four major European news outlets finally spoke out for Assange in a letter to the US government.
In the letter, the five news organizations said that “publishing is not a crime” and that it was time for the US “to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.” The letter acknowledged that Assange’s work is “in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists.”
— Don’t Extradite Assange – #FreeAssange (@DEAcampaign) November 30, 2022
New York Times Now Supports Julian Assange! explains that In the April 2011 interview Assange Speaks, Julian said WikiLeaks asked the New York Times, The Guardian in Britain, and Der Spiegel in Germany to assist with the redaction of materials from Cablegate to protect individuals from unfair incarceration or execution. However, because both the NYTimes and The Guardian redacted all sorts of material for very different reasons — behavior that was flagrantly immoral — the collaboration with the New York Times and The Guardian in England fell apart. WikiLeaks collaborated successfully with El Pais in Spain and Le Monde in France.
Assange explained that the NYTimes has done everything possible to sell WikiLeaks down the river to try to save its own skin in relation to the US Espionage Act. If Assange and WikiLeaks are conspirators to commit espionage, these other publications – and their journalists who collaborated – are also guilty of espionage. Assange says the national security sector in the US is trying to establish a very dangerous precedent that any journalist who corresponds with a source will be guilty of espionage if a classified communication is made. That spells the end of investigative journalism.
Assange said the goal of WikiLeaks is to protect the right of people to communicate with one another — which he defines as the basic ingredient of civilized life. It’s a quest to protect the historical record and to enable everyone to contribute to it. Assange says that the distortion of our history by the media is our single greatest impediment to advancement.
When the press corps asked White House about the New York Times story, this was the response:
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter described taking an oath to defend the US Constitution. He says Assange is “a better example of defending American values than many American journalists” and says the DOJ should take down their USA flag if they prosecute Assange. “You’re bringing together people who don’t normally come together,” pointed out Codepink’s Medea Benjamin. “We have to be unified, we have to act as one, and inform other people,” said Randy Credico. “If he goes, what comes next? If he goes, the Bill of Rights goes.” Ben Cohen of “Ben and Jerry’s” said Biden and the DOJ are saying “If the US government wants to lie, by God we’re gonna lie,” by prosecuting Assange.
“I salute my fellow whistleblower Julian Assange,” said EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. “Without Julian and without Wikileaks, those people would have had no voice,” said Green Party North Carolina Senate Candidate Matthew Hoh of civilians affected by war. “We will never let this murder go without accountability, just as everyone here today is not letting the prosecution and persecution of Julian go.” “The case of Julian Assange goes to the core of how we define ourselves in the United States,” said Joe Lauria of Consortium News.
“Everybody at the CIA is a liar. Everybody,” said CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who served prison time for exposing waterboarding. He calls it another lie that Assange would receive a fair trial. “A fair trial is impossible.” “We’re here today because Stella Assange organized this amazing show of support in London that far surpassed anything we could have imagined,” said Kevin Gosztola. “Merrick Garland and those who work in the Department of Justice are the puppets, not the puppet masters,” said Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges in the final speech.
“The lynching of Julian Assange is not here on Pennsylvania Avenue…” he says, rather, by the CIA, “a secretive inner state.”
Filmed by Ford Fischer
Journalists Worldwide Support Assange
Julian Assange’s Angels is a Facebook page that now lists 1,482 journalists who support freeing Assange.
1,200 journalists from 98 countries have released a joint statement today in defense of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, in the lead up to proceedings in a UK court to extradite him to the United States to face the espionage charges. The court case begins on 24 February.
This is the first time that the US Espionage Act has been used against someone for publishing information provided by a whistleblower. All journalists use information from confidential sources so the legal actions are an extremely dangerous precedent that threatens the world’s journalists and news media. The signatories believe Assange’s imprisonment and the court proceedings are a gross miscarriage of justice.
“It is very rare for journalists to join together and speak up on an issue. Indeed, the size and breadth of this joint journalists’ statement may be unprecedented,” spokesperson Serena Tinari said.
The full statement is here, available in eight languages: https://speak-up-for-assange.org.
The statement notes that Assange risks up to 175 years imprisonment for his part in making public the leak of US military documents from Afghanistan and Iraq, and US State Department cables — including revealing evidence of war crimes. Many media organisations published articles of high public interest based on this information. The statement says: “If governments can use espionage laws against journalists and publishers, they are deprived of their most important and traditional defense – of acting in the public interest – which does not apply under the Espionage Act.” Journalists anywhere in the world could find themselves being extradited to another country and charged under draconian espionage laws.
The statement has been signed by staff from most of the world’s major media organisations, and includes many prominent and award winning journalists. There is a large number of investigative journalists, including 30 members of ICIJ, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Various journalist organisations, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters without Borders (RSF), signed the statement. The signatories come from every part of the world for a total of 97 countries. The journalists’ statement also invited people from “media-related” professions. Daniel Ellsberg, the source of the Pentagon Papers, signed the statement as “Whistleblower” and was followed by other important whistleblowers, including Katharine Gun (UK), Rudolf Elmer (Switzerland) and Edward Snowden.
The statement was initiated by a group of investigative journalists based in different continents. Spokesperson Serena Tinari, chairwoman of the Swiss investigative journalist organisation, said “many of us use confidential information received from whistleblowers. It is an essential part of our role on behalf of the public. Every journalist and publisher should be appalled and worried at this attempt to criminalise our work.”
The journalists point at the grave and continued human rights violations Mr Assange is suffering and write: “We hold the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Ecuador and Sweden accountable for the human rights violations to which Mr Assange has been subjected.”
The joint statement quotes the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer who investigated the case: “it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.”
The statement says “Mr Assange’s reporting of abuses and crimes is of historic importance, as have been the contributions by whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner, who are now in exile or incarcerated. They have all faced relentless smear campaigns waged by their opponents, campaigns that have often led to erroneous media reports and a lack of scrutiny and media coverage of their predicaments.”
The journalists statement calls for Julian Assange to be released immediately from prison, and for the extradition proceedings and espionage charges against him to be dropped. They write: “We urge our fellow journalists to inform the public accurately about this abuse of fundamental rights. We urge all journalists to speak up in defense of Julian Assange at this critical time. Dangerous times call for fearless journalism.”
On social media, the initiative is promoted under the hashtag #JournalistsSpeakUpForAssange.
Illustrations: media are welcome to use the collage of signatories’ portraits available for download here: https://speak-up-for-assange.org/contact
The news of Julian Assange contracting COVID-19 emerged just days after a massive global action took place demanding his release.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has tested positive for COVID-19. The imprisoned journalist is being held in the high security Belmarsh prison in the UK while fighting against extradition attempts to the United States. The news of his illness emerged just days after a massive global action took place demanding his release. An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people mobilized in London as part of this call and formed a human chain that spanned nearly 2.5 kms encircling the Westminster Palace.”
In today’s episode, we take a look at international news organizations demanding an end to the persecution of Julian Assange, a strike by Austrian rail workers, South Korea truck drivers defying government’s work order, and cases of diphtheria among migrants in the UK.
A delegation from Wikileaks is canvassing among progressive movements, press freedom advocates, and political leaders across Latin America to garner support for Julian Assange’s release
“A delegation from Wikileaks is on a tour across Latin America to drum up support from various social movements and progressive governments in the region to call for Julian Assange’s release. The delegation consisting of Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, and Joseph Farrell, journalist and Wikileaks ambassador, are set to finish their Brazil leg of the tour on November 30.
The duo had already completed a visit to Colombia between November 22 and 24, before coming to Brazil. There, they met with the leftist president Gustavo Petro and Colombian foreign minister Alvaro Leyva Duran as part of their larger campaign to organize international solidarity for Assange. In a press release Hrafnsson stated that they were “content with the outcome of the meeting” and that Petro and Duran showed “their commitment and support for Julian Assange’s freedom, and strongly recognized the implications for press freedom worldwide that Assange’s extradition would set.” He further added that both Petro and Duran assured their assistance in raising among Latin American leaders and to “collectively and individually urge the Biden administration to drop the charges brought by the Trump administration and grant Assange his long overdue freedom.”
In Brazil, the duo are expecting to hold a meeting with Brazil’s leftist president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Da Silva is already one of the most prominent political leaders to defend the imprisoned Wikileaks publisher. In September 2020, he published an op-ed in The Guardian calling Assange a “champion of democracy” and calling for his immediate unconditional release. Now that da Silva is back on the world stage as an elected president, the delegation hopes to secure a similar commitment.
Apart from a meeting with Lula, the two are also expected to meet with the civil society groups, trade unions, federations and journalist guilds to not only raise solidarity for Assange but also to campaign in defense of the right to information. The visit to Brazil is being coordinated by the International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA) and is part of a series of events and meetings that the two will be participating across Latin America with political and social leaders, movements, organized civil society and all those who support Assange’s release.
They are expected to participate in an event at the Brazilian Press Association (ABI), in Rio de Janeiro, where they will meet with representatives of Union of Journalists of São Paulo, Reporter Without Borders (RSF), Instituto Vladimir Herzog, Artigo 19, Network for the Protection of Journalists and Communicators in Brazil, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), Tornavoz, Association of Digital Journalism (Ajor), Intervozes, and National Forum for the Democratization of Communication (FNDC).
“Without strong international mobilization, journalist Julian Assange will not be released,” declared Giovani del Prete, a member of the secretariat of the International People’s Assembly, underscoring the need to mount international pressure against the US persecution of Assange. “By publishing thousands of documents, photos, and videos on WikiLeaks that prove the involvement of the United States and its allies in the killing of innocents and in espionage on an international scale, Assange fulfilled his duty as a journalist. That’s why the fight for (Assange’s) freedom affects all of us.”
The Wikileaks delegation also plans to discuss issues related to the importance of freedom of expression and the right to information, values that qualify as pillars of a democratic society. “Wikileaks representatives intend to speak about the risks that exist for democracy and press freedom if Assange is extradited to the United States,” the organization said.
Assange is currently facing extradition to the US to stand trial before a federal grand jury on a total of 18 charges, 17 of which are under the notorious Espionage Act, carrying a total maximum prison sentence of 175 years. He is being held under judicial remand at the high-security Belmarsh prison in the United Kingdom, as he awaits an appeal against the British Home Office’s decision to facilitate his extradition to the United States.
In his interview with Folha de São Paulo, Hrafnsson emphasized the hopelessness of the judicial process at the moment. “We are giving up the official battle,” Hrafnsson said. “Julian has been fighting in the courts, but throughout this process, we understand that this is not a legal case. The laws are distorted, the whole framework rests on a foundation of public harassment.”
According to reports, the duo are expecting to hold meetings with at least seven of the region’s leftist leaders, in the light of a recent wave of leftist electoral victories. In the interview with Folha, Hrafnsson also pointed out how recent political events present an opportunity. “I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say that we are looking to take advantage of this window of change,” he told Folha. “It is extremely urgent that we build political support at all levels to urge the US government to stop this — not just the extradition request, but all charges.”
“Latin America is at an important crossroads. There are winds of change, and we have decided that this is the right time to knock on doors and ask politicians to come and support us. It’s time to put pressure on the (Joe Biden) administration and tell them to back off,” the Wikileaks editor-in-chief told Folha.
Western media groups oppose US prosecution
In the meanwhile, on Monday, November 28, a group of mainstream media outlets released an open letter condemning the continued US prosecution against Assange, on the 12th anniversary of the publication of the US diplomatic cables leak, often known as the ‘Cablegate’. The letter was jointly released by The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, the first to publish the leaked cables from Wikileaks.
The letter argued that the ongoing prosecution set a “dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press.” “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter read. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.” “Twelve years after the publication of “Cablegate”, it is time for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets,” the letter added.
In conjunction with an action on October 8, 2022 at the British Parliament to free Julian Assange, an action took place on the same day in San Francisco to demand his freedom. Thousands of people surrounded the British parliament to oppose his extradition to the United States for US charges of espionage.
Speakers in San Francisco talked about the fight to protect all journalists and publishers throughout the world that would be threatened if the US government was successful. They also called on USworkers to take direct action to free Julian Assange and all journalists and political prisoners. It was initiated by the Bay Action.
To Free Julian Assange Additional Media: HANDS OFF ASSANGE – Washington DC 10/8/22 Event https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=des…
Top Image: SCMP/YouTube
Source: Activist Post.