The Assange case is about much more than Assange himself
It's about our basic freedoms and government accountability
Julian Assange could be extradited to the US any day now and the indifference from most of our mainstream media is disturbing to say the least. It feels like British journalists are falling in line to ensure they don’t become the next target, and that’s as cowardly a position as any journalist could take. In fact, any journalist who behaves in such a way has no business calling themselves a journalist.
Thankfully, Assange has support from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which has 600,000 members in 146 countries, and he has recently had his international press card renewed, so no pretending Assange is not a “real journalist”, please.
Here is what the IFJ has to say about the case:
“The IFJ is gravely concerned about the impact of Assange’s continued detention on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally. The US pursuit of Assange against the public’s right to know poses a grave threat to the fundamental tenets of democracy, which are becoming increasingly fragile worldwide. Irrespective of personal views on Assange, his extradition will have a chilling effect, with all journalists and media workers at risk.”
Assange also has support from the Australian government which is frustrated by the lack of progress in negotiations:
“Mr Assange's case has dragged for too long, and our desire [is] that it be brought to a conclusion.
“I understand that Mr Assange has filed a renewal of appeal application in the UK. The Australian government is not party to these legal proceedings, nor can we intervene," Australian foreign minister Penny Wong recently said.
The US is rejecting Australia’s attempt to drop the extradition request due to Assange’s “alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of our country.”
Among that “classified information” was proof the US covered up the murder of civilians and journalists by its military so be under no illusions who the bad guys are.
Assange might be accused of spying, but receiving documents from whistleblowers and publishing information in the public interest is not what spying is.
“Spying” is being redefined to mean journalism the government doesn’t like, the same way “hate speech” and “misinformation” are being redefined to mean speech the government doesn’t like.
The UK-US Extradition Treaty explicitly forbids extraditions for political purposes and that is so blatantly what this case is. If Assange was exposing Russia or China and not the US, he would be declared an American hero.
“Notwithstanding the terms of paragraph 2 of this Article, extradition shall not be granted if the competent authority of the Requested State determines that the request was politically motivated.”
Extradition Treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America
Among other things, the assertion that US domestic law should extend across the globe is authoritarian in the extreme.
Surprisingly, The Daily Mail recently found some moral courage in the form of the ever unpredictable Peter Hitchens who wrote a piece calling for Assange’s release. It’s a sign that not everyone in the mainstream media has abandoned journalistic integrity.
According to Hitchens, Assange would have protections under the first amendment if he was a US citizen. In other words, American rights don’t extend globally, but American laws and punishments do.
If you support the extradition, you are saying the bigger crime is not that the US government was illegally spying on its citizens, not that the US military was firing on civilians and journalists, you are saying it’s that someone told you about these crimes and should be jailed, but the killers should walk free.
You are demanding that you and everyone else be kept in the dark about human rights abuses, even when they’re committed against you! Take some time to think about that what this says about your character.
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If the US is allowed to get away with jailing a journalist for exposing its crimes, every other government in the world could, and almost certainly would, do the same.
I’m not sure if you’re aware how Interpol works, but a country can issue an international arrest warrant for anyone it likes. This means you can be arrested even when you are not in the country that has issued the warrant. It has led to British citizens being arrested at airports for spurious reasons and being sent to prison in a foreign country.
A British oil worker called Brian Glendinning spent nine weeks in jail with terrorists in Iraq over a £4,000 debt in Qatar before paying £30,000 for his release.
International arrest warrants are regularly abused by authoritarian regimes, and it could be a matter of time until journalists and whistleblowers are not safe to travel anywhere in the world.
We could be entering a time in which whistleblowing becomes impossible, or at least so dangerous that almost no one takes the risk. Once governments know their crimes won’t be exposed, their human rights abuses will only get worse.
Given the UK has recently been responsible for two illegal wars and extraordinary rendition, it’s insane our media acts like the state is above criticism on foreign policy. It’s even scarier when journalists demand the prosecution of journalists as an act of self-preservation.
My main fear is this will not stop at Julian Assange.
Next it will be journalists at The Grayzone or Mintpress News. Maybe you still won’t care. Maybe they’re just “cranks” who “deserve it”. Shortly after, it will be journalists from Declassified UK. Next, it will be independent bloggers. Soon, it will be any mainstream journalist who attempts actual journalism instead of publishing lines spoon fed by the government.
At this point, you will not have anything resembling a free press. You will have state-controlled media. It could be argued we’re most of the way there, given how many journalists/bloggers have been jailed or intimidated in recent years.
If you are willing to give the green light to the Assange extradition, you are giving the green light to censorship, mass surveillance and war crimes.
We are on the verge of a world where privacy and accountability are things of the past and the only way we avoid that is by making a stand now. This stand starts with demanding the release of Julian Assange. Any politician that supports his extradition is an enemy of freedom who deserves no one’s vote and that includes the leaders of both major political parties.
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