Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Assange’s partner exposes ongoing denial of his legal and democratic rights, 

February 25, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian government’s brazen duplicity concerning Julian Assange

What Assange and WikiLeaks said about Australia, https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-assange-and-wikileaks-said-about-australia-20210129-p56xyo.html

By Jessie Tu  February 4, 2021 He has been called “truth-telling hero”, “evil and perverted traitor”, “heroic, trickster, mythical – reviled”. Robert Manne called him the “most consequential Australian of the present time”. The new US President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”.

The protean narratives of Julian Assange, who will be 50 in July, have been brewing since 2010, when his website published “The Afghan War Diaries”, “Iraq War Logs” and “Collateral Murder”, a video showing the US military killing two Reuters employees in Iraq.

December marked 10 years since Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in Britain, according to Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau in their introduction to A Secret Australia – a collection of 18 essays that survey the impact WikiLeaks has had on Australia’s media landscape and the consequences of our government’s attraction towards America’s intelligence and military empire.

The potpourri of authors and thinkers includes Julian Burnside, Antony Loewenstein, Scott Ludlam and Helen Razer, who critique “the powers opposed to openness and transparency” and examine the evidence, “not the likelihoods, the probabilities, the suspicions, and assumptions” around the “subversive, technology-based publishing house”.

WikiLeaks invented a “pioneering model of journalism” – one that embodied the “contemporary spirit of resistance to imperial power”, says Richard Tanter, from the school of political and social sciences at the University of Melbourne. It brought renewed debates on free speech, digital encryption and questions around the management and protection of whistleblowers who risk their lives to expose covert, deceitful actions by governments.

The documents exposed the “brazen duplicity” of the Australian government towards its citizens and presented “off-stage alliance management conversations”, Tanter writes. They invited the layperson into the green room of the performance that is politics and international diplomacy.
WikiLeaks unmasked reports that showed governments recommending media strategies to deceive the public, demonstrating their unethically utilitarian approach to international diplomacy and governance and “enlightened the public on the dark corners of wars”, writes journalist and author Antony Loewenstein.

Assange is still in a cell at London’s Belmarsh Prison, facing an appeal by the United States in its bid to extradite him to face charges for the 2010 publications. He is continuing to be “denied adequate medical care” and “denied emergency bail in light of the COVID-19″, says Lissa Johnson, a clinical psychologist and writer for New Matilda – one of the few Australian publications that have paid genuine attention to the WikiLeaks saga.

In Australia, there’s been a “striking absence of a solid debate on WikiLeaks in the mainstream public discourse”, according to Benedetta Brevini, a journalist and media activist who insists that our concerning “lack of a thorough and sustained debate” is incomprehensible. Loewenstein calls Australia’s lack of journalistic solidarity with Assange “deeply shameful”. He says we have an “anodyne media environment” – perhaps not unsurprising, considering our highly concentrated media market, one of the most severe in the world.

Most of the essays expostulate on the same things: Assange is a journalist, not a hacker. He’s won a Walkley Award (at least six mentions of this). We have an undeniable legal obligation to him. His persecution is a “gruesome legal experiment in criminalising journalism” – a long and tortured legal process that Ludlam declares “has degenerated into an unworkable shit-show”.

The standout essays come from Guy Rundle and Helen Razer – whose amusing voice cuts through the somewhat parched tenor of cold academic-speak that lightly threads through the other essays. Her addition is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a chain of same-same arguments.

The most useful essay is Rundle’s take on the historical basis for WikiLeaks. He surveys the swirling currents of Australian history that led to its founding, identifying WikiLeaks as a continuation of political activist Albert Langer’s resistance to capital.

“We need a whole new organisation of how recent Australian history is told,” Rundle concludes, seconding Lissa Johnson’s opinion that we demand citizens who “cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music and expose what is going on inside”. This collection of polemics, though at times repetitive, takes us closer to a future where these demands no longer seem beyond reality.

A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposes,  Eds., Felicity Ruby & Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, $29.95

February 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Biden administration presses for Julian Assange to be extradited to USA

Biden administration files appeal pressing for Assange extradition, Yahoo News, Sat, 13 February 2021  The administration of US President Joe Biden has appealed a British judge’s ruling against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a Justice Department official said Friday.

A brief filed late Thursday declared Washington’s desire to have Assange stand trial on espionage and hacking-related charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents beginning in 2009.

The Justice Department had until Friday to register its stance on Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January 4 ruling that Assange suffered mental health problems that would raise the risk of suicide if he were sent to the United States for trial.

“Yes, we filed an appeal and we are continuing to pursue extradition,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told AFP.

After Baraitser’s decision, which did not question the legal grounds for the US extradition request, Donald Trump’s administration moved to appeal.

But Biden’s stance was not clear, and he was pressured by rights groups to drop the case, which raises sensitive transparency and media freedom issues.

After WikiLeaks began publishing US secrets in 2009, then-president Barack Obama, whose vice president was Biden, declined to pursue the case.

Assange said WikiLeaks was no different than other media constitutionally protected to publish such materials.

Prosecuting him, too, could mean also prosecuting powerful US news organizations for publishing similar material — legal fights the government would likely lose.

But under Trump, whose 2016 election was helped by WikiLeaks publishing Russian-stolen materials damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton — the Justice Department built a national security case against Assange.

In 2019 the native Australian was charged under the US Espionage Act and computer crimes laws with multiple counts of conspiring with and directing others, from 2009 to 2019, to illegally obtain and release US secrets……….

Assange has remained under detention by British authorities pending the appeal.

Earlier this week 24 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA and Reporters Without Borders, urged Biden to drop the case.

“Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret,” they said in an open letter.

“In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris said in a statement that Baraitser’s January decision that Assange was a high risk for suicide and that US prison facilities were not safe remained a strong reason to deny extradition.

Baraitser “was given clear advice by medical experts that ordering him to stand trial in the US would put his life at risk,” she said.

“Any assurances given by the Department of Justice about trial procedures or the prison regime that Julian might face in the US are not only irrelevant but meaningless because the US has a long history of breaking commitments to extraditing countries,” she said  https://au.news.yahoo.com/biden-administration-files-appeal-assange-171637702.html

February 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange nominated by French parliamentarians for Nobel Peace Prize

February 1, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s environmental scientists intimidated, silenced by threats of job loss

 

January 17, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, culture, Education, employment, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Judge’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange is still part of cowardly process to deny freedom of information

The personal conveniently distracts from the political in the Assange story,  https://www.theage.com.au/national/the-personal-conveniently-distracts-from-the-political-in-the-assange-story-20210107-p56siu.html

Elizabeth Farrelly   Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange for “mental health” reasons may look humanitarian but is in fact a deft political move. In reducing what should be an argument of law and principle to a test of personality, Baraitser managed at a blow to impugn Assange’s stability, repudiate any suggestion of innocence and open the door for America to prove the comforts of its solitary confinement and thereby win his extradition.

It’s a story of many twists and turns but underlying it throughout is a profound and widespread moral cowardice.

Baraitser’s 132-page ruling found that although the UK-US Extradition Treaty of 2003 specifically prohibits extradition for “political offence”, this provision never became law in the UK and therefore has no effect. In essence, the treaty is worthless.

The court also supported all 18 of the espionage charges against Assange, arguing that WikiLeaks’ hacking and publication “would amount to” offences in English law. Baraitser identified eight charges under the UK Official Secrets Act that would be, she said, equivalent.

Interestingly, this “would have” construction does not apply to the treaty question. Had Assange engaged in the same conduct in America, targeting British government information, he could not have been extradited because America’s “monist” system regards any treaty as law once signed. So it’s ironic that undermining this particular protection is a key US argument.

Anyone who saw the 2019 docudrama Official Secrets, chronicling the leakage by GCHQ analyst-turned-whistleblower Katharine Gun of information on US-UK dirty dealing in drumming up UN support for the Iraq war, will understand just how murky and terrifying such prosecutions can become.

This fear, and the persistent cowardice of yielding to it, is the theme of Assange’s story. I’ve written about Assange several times. I visited him in Ecuador’s embassy. Yet each time, I’ve found myself reluctant.

Seven years ago, when I met him, Assange was ebullient and hopeful, even funny. Now, as Baraitser says, he is “a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely fearful about his future”. Assange, she said, was at “high risk of serious depression leading to suicide if he were to be extradited and placed in solitary confinement for a long period”.

Baraitser noted the “bleak” conditions of Assange’s likely US confinement would include “severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum”, with family limited to one supervised 15-minute phone call a month. Detailing Assange’s mental state, she opined that his risk of suicide, in such conditions, was “very high”. This is the loophole she offers the appellant US prosecutor.

Those fears – his of 175 years in solitary (honestly, who wouldn’t top themselves?) and hers of his suicide – underpin her judgment. But there are other, more insidious fears at play here.

Such fears, I see now, feed my reluctance to revisit the Assange story: fear, in particular, of confronting the terrifying truth about our imperial system. Regardless of Assange’s innocence or guilt, the simple facts of what our controlling powers can do to you if you step out of line are terrifying.

But this small, individual fear also operates, very effectively, at nation level.

From the start, the case against Assange has contrived to turn issues of principle into questions of personality. The initial Swedish rape charges, since dropped for lack of evidence as the witness’s recollections after so long were clouded, were extremely personal, spinning off the cancellation of his credit cards upon his arrival in Stockholm, forcing him to accept hospitality; the seductions, the sex – which everyone agrees was consensual – his failure to wear a condom although asked and reluctance to take an STD test. Then the left turned against him because of the Clinton leaks – which one suspects would have been fine, had they been directed at the other side – and perceptions about Assange’s ego. He was vain, it was said, and narcissistic. As if that itself were a crime, reason enough to let him rot in solitary.

The personal and emotive nature of all this – the Swedish prosecutor’s refusal to interview him in London, Britain’s willingness to imprison him for a year on bail charges, America’s determination to prosecute him for exposing their war crimes (in the Iraq War Logs of October 2010 and the film Collateral Murder showing air crew shooting unarmed civilians from a helicopter) and the description of WikiLeaks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “a hostile non-state intelligence service” – all suggest a bigger picture, and smaller values, than mere truth or justice.

It’s often said that Assange endangered the lives of US informers but, as Baraitser notes, no causality has been shown. Even the Senate Committee on Armed Service said, “the review to date has not revealed any sensitive sources and methods compromised by disclosure”. It is said that Assange, by dumping hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, gave us Trump. But if she was engaged in skulduggery as alleged, wasn’t it better for the world to make its own judgment?

When you look coldly at the facts it’s hard not to suspect that Sweden was coerced into the original charges and that Britain and Ecuador have been similarly pressured. Certainly Australia’s persistent refusal to intervene for Assange, an Australian citizen who has broken no Australian law, suggests a similar abject timidity in the face of US might.

This is cowardice. It’s yielding to a fear we feel but rarely confront: the existential fear that at some lofty level, morality doesn’t apply. Up there in the imperial military-industrial complex, justice, freedom, truth are only words. Up there it’s a whatever-it-takes kinda world. The bad guys are in charge.

That’s the fear that guys like Assange and Edward Snowden make us confront. And it’s why they deserve, at the very least, a fair and open trial.

January 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Assange hearing outcome could set an “alarming precedent” for free speech

January 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Law and Disorder: The case of Julian Assange

In the case of Julian Assange, what is on trial is nothing less than our right to know what is done by governments in our name, and our capacity to hold power to account.

Law and Disorder: The case of Julian Assange, DiEM25, By Pam Stavropoulos | 10/12/2020, 

What kind of law allows pursuit of charges under the 1917 United States Espionage Act — for which there is no public interest defence — against a journalist who is a foreign national?

The closing argument of the defence in the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange has been filed. For this and other reasons it is apposite to consider the authority invested in the law before which, in democratic societies, we are ostensibly all equal.

In fact, notwithstanding the familiar claims of objectivity (and as `everybody knows’ in Leonard Cohen’s famous lyric) the reality is somewhat different. Jokes about the law attest to this:

‘One law for the rich…’

‘Everyone has the right to their day in court — if they can pay for it’

‘What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a great one? A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge’

The term ‘legal fiction’ calls into question the relationship between law, objectivity, and truth. On the one hand, law is the essential pillar of a functioning society. On the other, it is replete with anomalies both in conception and execution. To what extent can these perspectives be reconciled? High stakes are attached to this question.

Questioning claims of objectivity in the context of law.

Despite its routinely invoked status of objectivity, there are many grounds on which the law cannot be objective in any overarching sense. Judicial findings can be overturned on appeal (i.e. including in the absence of new evidence). This immediately indicates that the law, in common with other domains and disciplines, is subject to interpretation. ………
Conflicts of interest also pose challenges to the notion of objectivity in the context of law. In the case of Julian Assange, as DiEM25 and others have highlighted, conflict of interest would clearly seem to be operative. This is because financial links to the British military — including institutions and individuals exposed by WikiLeaks — by the husband of the Westminster chief magistrate who initially presided over the extradition case have been revealed. This chief magistrate refused to recuse herself and retained a supervisory role of oversight even in the face of this manifest conflict of interest. ……..
In the case of Julian Assange, the refrain that the law and its processes are ‘objective’ ensures that mounting critique of both the fact of his prosecution and the way in which the proceedings are conducted is not engaged with. It also serves to deflect attention from the fact that there is no precedent — i.e. in a profession which claims to respect it — for prosecution of Assange in the first place. ……..
In addition to the myth of the objectivity of law, it is important to engage with another entrenched myth — i.e. that the law is necessarily ‘apolitical’. In the case of Julian Assange, the political stakes are enormous. Continue reading

December 15, 2020 Posted by | civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The Australian government”s intimidation of whistleblowers – the torture of Julian Assange

Torture of Julian Assange by Australian governments sends powerful message to whistleblowers, Michael West Media by Lissa Johnson | Nov 26, 2020

Australia has used a range of torture techniques against Julian Assange, writes Dr Lissa Johnson. Governments have isolated and demonised him; flatly rejected evidence of ill-treatment; refused to respond to specific allegations; and divested themselves  of any responsibility. Leaders can’t, or won’t, accept the difference between psychological torture and ‘a legal matter’.

Julian Assange has set a number of firsts for Australia, including:

  • The first Walkley award winner whose journalism has attracted a possible 175 years in US prison.
  • The first journalist to be prosecuted as a spy by the US government, under its 1917 Espionage Act.
  • The first citizen of an ostensibly democratic state (Australia) whom a UN official has found to be the target of a campaign of collective persecution and mobbing by other so-called democratic states.

As the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, observed:

In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.

As part of this mobbing and collective persecution, Assange is the first Australian journalist to be tortured for journalism in the UK.

On 9 May 2019, Professor Melzer visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, accompanied by two medical experts specialising in the assessment and documentation of torture. On 31 May, Melzer reported that they had found Assange to be suffering all symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture.

On 1 November 2019, Melzer warned that, unless the UK government urgently changed course, it may soon end up costing his life.

What torture?

Julian Assange is being held in ‘Britain’s Guantanamo’, Belmarsh prison, a high-security facility designed for those charged with terrorism, murder and other violent offences. He has been held in solitary confinement for 22 to 23 hours a day.

He knows that US-aligned security contractors have written in emails that he will make a nice bride in prison, and needs his head dunked in a full toilet bowl at Gitmo. He knows he is headed for life in US supermax prisons, where prisoners are held in perpetual solitary and chains.

‘If this man gets extradited to the United States, he will be tortured until the day he dies’, Profesor Melzer has cautioned.

To heighten the torment, Assange has been prevented from preparing his defence against extradition in violation of his human rights as a defendant.

He has been granted negligible access to his lawyers and is prevented from researching his own defence. The only purpose is to render him helpless, intensifying his trauma.

A Message from the Australian Government

Assange’s experience sets an example to anyone thinking of airing the dirty secrets of those in power: the genuinely dirty secrets, such as wantonly slaughtering and torturing innocent people and covering it up.

Like all public torture, it sends a message to onlookers: this could happen to you.

And the message from the Australian government to any Australian journalists looking on? You’re on your own.

The US government is seeking to retrospectively apply its own Espionage Act to non-US citizens in foreign lands, while simultaneously withholding the free speech protections of its Constitution. The upshot would be that non-US citizens, and non-US journalists, would be vulnerable to prosecution wherever they may be, whenever the United States saw fit.

Should a host country oblige, that journalist’s only hope would be the protection of their own government. And the message from the Australian government? Not a chance.

A climate of consent

But can the government do anything to stop the torture of Assange in the UK? Or are its hands tied?

Australia ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1989. It therefore has a positive duty to take ‘effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture’ of its citizens. According to the Federal Attorney-General’s website, however, that duty applies to ‘territories within Australia’s jurisdiction’.

So who is responsible for protecting Australian citizens from torture overseas?

Australian officials can raise concerns with their overseas counterparts when they are concerned about gross violations of citizens’ rights as happened in the cases of Melinda Taylor, James Ricketson, David Hicks and Peter Greste.

 

They could also make a submission to the Committee against Torture that a state is ‘not fulfilling its obligations under this Convention’.

n Assange’s case, however, the government has opted for ‘consent and acquiescence’ under Article 1 of the convention. Consent and acquiescence is listed alongside inflicting and instigating torture as part of the very definition of torture.

 ‘Standard’ fare

DFAT representatives say repeatedly that Assange’s treatment In the UK is perfectly normal. ‘Standard’. ‘No different’ from the treatment of other UK prisoners. Routine, in other words. Nothing to see here.

When reminded that Assange had been handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and moved between five holding cells after the first day of his extradition hearing, a DFAT representative described this as ‘standard prison to court and court to prison procedure’.

What the official failed to explain is that treatment is only ‘standard’ and normal for prisoners charged with terrorism or other violent offences.

It is not remotely normal for journalists with no criminal history, and no history or risk of violence, to be detained under the most punitive conditions that UK law enforcement has to offer.

As an exercise in “consent and acquiescence” DFAT representatives performed their duties well.

Sanitising, normalising language minimises and trivialises abuse………….

‘Not our responsibility’ has been the Australian government’s refrain. Australian government officials ‘don’t provide running commentaries on legal matters before the courts in other parts of the world’, asserted the Foreign Minister.

Australia is ‘not a party to the legal proceedings in the United Kingdom’, stressed a DFAT official when asked why Australia had not intervened in Assange’s case during Senate Estimates. ‘We have no standing in the legal matter that is currently before the courts.’

Perhaps the Australian government doesn’t understand the seriousness of the abuses taking place in the UK. Perhaps ministers and their advisors are unaware of the difference between psychological torture and a ‘legal matter’. Psychological torture is, after all, not commonly well understood.

It is possible that the Australian government merely fails to grasp the gravity of ignoring Professor Melzer’s warnings. However, when the group Doctors for Assange wrote to the Australian government in December 2019, they detailed the medical and psychological basis of their concerns for Assange’s life and health…………..

New normal in Australia?

Assange is not the first person in Australia to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Australia’s abuse of asylum seekers and refugees has been found to violate the Convention Against Torture. Aboriginal Australians, among the most incarcerated groups on earth, have been dying in custody, buried under acquiescent consent, for decades, and historically for hundreds of years.

The Human Rights Measurement Index 2019 has given Australia a 5.5 out of 10 rating for ‘freedom from torture’, noting, ‘Torture is a serious problem in Australia … a large range of people [are] at particular risk of torture or ill-treatment, with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders at the top of the list’…….

Through sending a message to journalists worldwide by torturing Assange, the abusive licence deployed against other persecuted groups is being expanded to take in journalism. The targeting of journalists around the world matters because journalists cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music, and expose what is going on inside. Every persecuted and abused group or person needs them, to break the cycle of violence by breaking the silence.

We do torture here. It is our problem. In Julian Assange’s case, the biggest problem appears to be that torturing journalists is becoming the new normal in Australia.

This edited extract is reproduced from A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés, edited by Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, December 2020. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/torture-of-julian-assange-by-australian-governments-sends-powerful-message-to-whistleblowers/

November 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Julian Assange ‘targeted as a political opponent of Trump administration and threatened with the death penalty’

November 16, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Adani hires spying on activist’s daughter on way to school

October 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

The Guardian was grossly unfair to Julian Assange. They could still make up for this.

The Guardian’s Silence Let UK Trample on Assange’s Rights in Effective Darkness  https://consortiumnews.com/2020/10/21/the-guardians-silence-let-uk-trample-on-assanges-rights-in-effective-darkness/?fbclid=IwAR16w5kNgLGJ3jyFI6QvKZmxJ5tn_LjZcD90a7FOG-ZQ8jaGzUYKlhnRT8M

October 21, 2020  On the eve of a demonstration outside the paper’s office in London, Jonathan Cook issues a statement about The Guardian’s abandonment of its former media partner.  By Jonathan Cook

Jonathan-Cook.net   WISE Up, a solidarity group for Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, is due to stage a demonstration outside The Guardian offices on Oct. 22 to protest the paper’s failure to support Assange as the U.S. seeks his extradition in an unprecedented assault on press freedom.

The date chosen for the protest marks the 10th anniversary of The Guardian’s publication of the Iraq war logs, leaked by Manning to Assange and which lie at the heart of the U.S. case to reclassify journalism exposing crimes against humanity as “espionage.”

Here is my full statement, part of which is due to be read out, in support of Assange and castigating The Guardian for its craven failure to speak up in solidarity with its former media partner:  

Julian Assange has been hounded out of public life and public view by the U.K.  and U.S.  governments for the best part of a decade.

Now he languishes in a small, airless cell in Belmarsh high-security prison in London — a victim of arbitrary detention, according to a UN working group, and a victim of psychological torture, according to Nils Melzer, the UN’s expert on torture.

If Judge Vanessa Baraitser, presiding in the Central Criminal Court in London, agrees to extradition, as she gives every appearance of preparing to do, Assange will be the first journalist to face a terrifying new ordeal — a form of extraordinary rendition to the United States for “espionage” — for having the courage to publish documents that exposed U.S.  war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Guardian worked with Assange and WikiLeaks on vitally important documents – now at the heart of the U.S.  case against Assange – known as the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs. The latter were published exactly a decade ago today. They were a journalistic coup of global significance, and the paper ought to be profoundly proud of its role in bringing them to public attention.

During Assange’s extradition hearing, however, The Guardian treated the logs and its past association with Assange and WikiLeaks more like a dirty secret it hoped to keep out of sight. Those scoops furnished by Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning enriched the paper financially, and bolstered its standing internationally. They also helped to pave its path into the lucrative U.S.  market.

Unlike Assange and Manning, The Guardian has suffered no consequences for publishing the logs. Unlike Assange and Manning, the paper has faced no retribution. While it profited, Assange continues to be made an example of — to deter other journalists from contemplating following in his footsteps.

The Guardian owes Assange.

  • It owes him a huge debt for allowing it to share in the journalistic glory of WikiLeaks’ revelations.
  • It owes him a duty of care as its partner in publishing the logs.
  • It owes him its voice loudly denouncing the abuse of a fellow journalist for doing the essence of journalism — holding the powerful to account.
  • It owes him and its own staff, and the young journalists who will one day take their place, its muscle in vigorously defending the principle of a strong and free press.
  • It owes him, and the rest of us, a clear profession of its outrage as the U.S. conducts an unprecedented assault on free speech, the foundation of a democratic society.

And yet The Guardian has barely raised its voice above a whisper as the noose has tightened around Assange’s — and by extension, our — neck. It has barely bothered to cover the dramatic and deeply disturbing developments of last month’s extradition hearing, or the blatant abuses of legal process overseen by Baraitser.

The Guardian has failed to raise its editorial voice in condemnation either of the patently dishonest U.S.  case for extradition or of the undisguised mistreatment of Assange by Britain’s legal and judicial authorities.

The paper’s many columnists ignored the proceedings too, except for those who contributed yet more snide and personal attacks of the kind that have typified The Guardian’s coverage of Assange for many years.

It is not too late for the paper to act in defence of Assange and journalism.

Assange’s rights are being trampled under foot close by The Guardian’s offices in London because the British establishment knows that these abuses are taking place effectively in darkness. It has nothing to fear as long as the media abdicates its responsibility to scrutinize what amounts to the biggest attack on journalism in living memory.

Were The Guardian to shine a light on Assange’s case — as it is morally obligated to do — the pressure would build on other media organizations, not least the BBC, to do their job properly too. The British establishment would finally face a countervailing pressure to the one being exerted so forcefully by the U.S.

The Guardian should have stood up for Assange long ago, when the threats he and investigative journalism faced became unmistakable. It missed that opportunity. But the threats to Assange — and the causes of transparency and accountability he champions — have not gone away. They have only intensified. Assange needs the Guardian’s support more urgently, more desperately than ever before.

Jonathan Cook is a former Guardian journalist (1994-2001) and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. He is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth. If you appreciate his articles, please consider offering your financial support.

This article is from his blog Jonathan Cook.net. 

October 22, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

New government Bill could target journalists, environmental and human rights groups

October 20, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

Persecuting Assange Is a Real Blow to Reporting and Human Rights Advocacy’

Persecuting Assange Is a Real Blow to Reporting and Human Rights Advocacy’
CounterSpin interview with Chip Gibbons on Assange extradition Fair, 15 Oct 20

JANINE JACKSON Janine Jackson interviewed Defending Rights & Dissent’s Chip Gibbons about Julian Assange’s extradition hearing for the October 9, 2020, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
CounterSpin Chip Gibbons Interview
Janine Jackson: If it were not for a tiny handful of journalists—ShadowProof’s Kevin Gosztola preeminent among them—Americans might be utterly unaware that a London magistrate, for the last month, has been considering nothing less than whether journalists have a right to publish information the US government doesn’t want them to. Not whether outlets can leak classified information, but whether they can publish that information on, as in the case  US war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporateUS war crimes and torture and assorted malfeasance to do with, for instance, the war on Afghanistan, which just entered its 19th year, with zero US corporate media interest.

Assange’s case, the unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to go after a journalist, has dire implications for all reporters. But this country’s elite press corps have evidently decided they can simply whistle past it, perhaps hoping that if and when the state comes after them, they’ll make a more sympathetic victim.

Joining us now to discuss the case is Chip Gibbons. He’s policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC………..

CG: Sure. So the US has indicted Julian Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act, as well as a count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Assange is not a US person; he’s an Australian national. He was inside the Ecuadorian embassy for a number of years, as Ecuador had granted him asylum, and the UK had refused to basically recognize that and let him leave the country, so he was de facto imprisoned inside the embassy. And after the indictment the US issued, the new government of Ecuador—which is much less sympathetic to Assange than the previous Correa government—let the US come in the embassy and seize him.

And the US is seeking Assange’s extradition to the US from the UK. I guess it’s, probably, technically a hearing, but Kevin’s point was that it’s more like what we would think of as a trial, in that there’s different witnesses, there’s expert testimony, there’s different legal arguments at stake.

The defense, the witness portion of it, has closed; it ended last week. And there’s going to be closing arguments submitted in writing, and then the judge will render a decision, and that decision will be appealable by either side. So regardless of the outcome, we can expect appeals. So it does very closely mirror what we would think of more like a trial than a hearing in the US court context.

It’s important to really understand what’s at stake with Assange’s extradition. He is the first person ever indicted by the US government under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information.

The US government has considered indicting journalists before: They considered indicting Seymour Hersh, a very famous investigative reporter. They considered indicting James Bamford, because he had the audacity to try to write a book on the National Security Agency. But they’ve never done that.

And Obama’s administration looked at the idea of indicting Assange and said, “No, this would violate the First Amendment, and it would open the door to all kinds of other bad things.” But the Trump administration clearly doesn’t have those qualms……..

 It is very interesting to see how this plays out in a US court in the current environment. If whoever—Trump or  Biden, whoever is president, when this finally comes to the US—actually pursues this, and they actually are allowing the persecution of journalists, that’s going to be a really dark, dark assault on free expression rights. 

And it’s worth remembering—and Julian Assange is clearly very reviled in the corporate media and the political establishment right now—but the information he leaked came from Chelsea Manning, it dealt with US war crimes; and he worked with the New York Times, the GuardianDer Spiegel, Le MondeAl Jazeera, to publish this information. So if he can go to jail for publishing this, why can’t the New York Times? And is that a door anyone wants to open? There is a big press freedom angle here.

I also want to talk about the facts, though: What did Julian Assange publish, and why did it matter? ………..

Julian Assange is accused of publishing information about war crimes, about human rights abuses and about abuses of power, that have been tremendously important, not just for the public’s right to know, but also have made a real difference in advocacy around those issues. People were able to go and get justice for victims of rendition, or able to go and get court rulings in other countries about US drone strikes, because of this information being in the public domain. So attacking Assange, persecuting Assange, disappearing him into a supermax prison, this is a real blow to reporting and human rights advocacy. ………

JJ: Right. And, finally, the journalists who are holding their nose right now on covering it aren’t offering to give back the awards that they won based on reporting relying on WikiLeaks revelations. And James Risen had an op-ed in the New York Times a while back, in which he was talking about Glenn Greenwald, but also about Julian Assange, and he said that he thought that governments—he was talking about Bolsonaro in Brazil, as well as Donald Trump—that they’re trying out these anti-press measures and, he said, they “seem to have decided to experiment with such draconian anti- press tactics by trying them out first on aggressive and disagreeable figures.”………. https://fair.org/home/persecuting-assange-is-a-real-blow-to-reporting-and-human-rights-advocacy/

October 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

As Julian Assange faces extradition to USA, global press freedom is endangered

 

October 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international | Leave a comment