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Tag Archives: Press Freedom

Julian Assange in Limbo

Julian Assange​ was running WikiLeaks in 2010 when it released a vast hoard of US government documents revealing details of American political, military and diplomatic operations. With extracts published by the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País, the archive provided deeper insight into the international workings of the US state than anything seen since Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the media in 1971. But today Ellsberg is celebrated as the patron saint of whistleblowers while Assange is locked in a cell in London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison for 23 and a half hours a day. In this latest phase of the American authorities’ ten-year pursuit of Assange, he is fighting extradition to the US. Court hearings to determine whether the extradition request will be granted have been delayed until September by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the US he faces one charge of computer hacking and 17 counts under the Espionage Act of 1917. If he is convicted, the result could be a prison sentence of 175 years.

I was in Kabul when I first heard about the WikiLeaks revelations, which confirmed much of what I and other reporters suspected, or knew but could not prove, about US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The trove was immense: some 251,287 diplomatic cables, more than 400,000 classified army reports from the Iraq War and 90,000 from the war in Afghanistan. Rereading these documents now I’m struck again by the constipated military-bureaucratic prose, with its sinister, dehumanising acronyms. Killing people is referred to as an EOF (‘Escalation of Force’), something that happened frequently at US military checkpoints when nervous US soldiers directed Iraqi drivers to stop or go with complex hand signals that nobody understood. What this could mean for Iraqis is illustrated by brief military reports such as the one headed ‘Escalation of Force by 3/8 NE Fallujah: I CIV KIA, 4 CIV WIA’. Decoded, it describes the moment when a woman in a car was killed and her husband and three daughters wounded at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. The US marine on duty opened fire because he was ‘unable to determine the occupants of the vehicle due to the reflection of the sun coming off the windshield’. Another report marks the moment when US soldiers shot dead a man who was ‘creeping up behind their sniper position’, only to learn later that he was their own unit’s interpreter.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n12/patrick-cockburn/julian-assange-in-limbo

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2020 in Reportages

 

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JULIAN ASSANGE MUST BE FREED, NOT BETRAYED

On Saturday, there will be a march from Australia House in London to Parliament Square, the centre of British democracy. People will carry pictures of the Australian publisher and journalist Julian Assange who, on 24 February, faces a court that will decide whether or not he is to be extradited to the United States and a living death.

I know Australia House well. As an Australian myself, I used to go there in my early days in London to read the newspapers from home. Opened by King George V over a century ago, its vastness of marble and stone, chandeliers and solemn portraits, imported from Australia when Australian soldiers were dying in the slaughter of the First World War, have ensured its landmark as an imperial pile of monumental servility.

As one of the oldest “diplomatic missions” in the United Kingdom, this relic of empire provides a pleasurable sinecure for Antipodean politicians: a “mate” rewarded or a troublemaker exiled.

Known as High Commissioner, the equivalent of an ambassador, the current beneficiary is George Brandis, who as Attorney General tried to water down Australia’s Race Discrimination Act and approved raids on whistleblowers who had revealed the truth about Australia’s illegal spying on East Timor during negotiations for the carve-up of that impoverished country’s oil and gas.

http://johnpilger.com/articles/julian-assange-must-be-freed-not-betrayed

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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With WikiLeaks, Julian Assange did what all journalists should aspire to do

I was in Kabul in 2010 when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks first released a vast archive of classified US government documents, revealing what Washington really knew about what was happening in the world. I was particularly interested in one of these disclosures, which came in the shape of a video that the Pentagon had refused to release despite a Freedom of Information Act request.

When WikiLeaks did release the video, it was obvious why the US generals had wanted to keep it secret. Three years earlier, I had been in Baghdad when a US helicopter machine-gunned and fired rockets at a group of civilians on the ground who its pilots claimed were armed insurgents, killing or wounding many of them.

Journalists in Iraq were disbelieving about the US military’s claims because the dead included two reporters from the Reuters news agency. Nor was it likely that insurgents would have been walking in the open with their weapons when a US Apache helicopter was overhead.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-wikileaks-extradition-prison-trump-chelsea-manning-a9351246.html

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Yes, Anti-Semitism Is Alive and Well-But Where?

A strange thing happened to me over these past few days. On Friday, December 20 the website of Spectator USA published my comment on the thin line between Zionism and anti-Semitism. A couple of hours after the comment appeared on the web, it mysteriously disappeared. (It was still announced on the main page, but when one clicked on my text there, it was unavailable). I was told that this was just a matter of a technical glitch and that the text would re-appear very soon, which it did in late afternoon of December 21. However, it was now available in a shortened form, with two central passages missing, and I was told that the editor just decided to “tidy up” my text.

All this happened shortly after the furious reactions to my comment published on the website of Independent, to which I was not allowed to reply. (Russia Today reported on this incident). Since my text for Spectator deals with a similar topic, I cannot but suspect that I am again a victim of censorship. Let the readers decide! Here is my full text as it first appeared on Spectator’s website, and the main two passages that disappeared in its reappearance are between ((( and ))). I wasn’t consulted about this change, and readers should note, especially, the disappearance of the last paragraph which brings in Palestinians. This is where we stand today in our “permissive” liberal societies: it looks like I am now considered problematic in the last two digital (not printed, I was excluded from print media years ago) news outlets in the English-speaking part of the world that have been still open to me.

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/yes-anti-semitism-is-alive-and-well-but-where/

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2019 in Europe, Middle East

 

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Bolsonaro’s Attacks Show Why Our Reporting Is Vital

When news emerged this week that the Federal Police had arrested four people accused of hacking the Telegram accounts of various Brazilian officials and providing some of that content to The Intercept, many of our readers asked: What effect will this have on the reporting that we have done and are continuing to do on this secret archive?

The answer, in one word: None.

The public interest in reporting this material has been obvious from the start. These documents revealed serious, systematic, and sustained improprieties and possible illegality by Brazil’s current Minister of Justice and Public Security Sergio Moro while he was a judge, as well as by the chief prosecutor of the Car Wash investigation, Deltan Dallagnol, and other members of that investigative task force. It was the Car Wash task force, which Moro presided over as a judge, that was responsible for prosecuting ex-President Lula da Silva and removing him from the 2018 election, paving the way for the far-right Jair Bolsonaro to become president. The corruption exposed by our reporting was so serious, and so consequential, that even many of Moro’s most loyal supporters abandoned him and called for his resignation within a week of the publication of our initial stories.

https://theintercept.com/2019/07/28/bolsonaro-attacks-show-why-reporting-on-secret-brazil-archive-is-vital/

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in South America

 

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The final punishment of Julian Assange reminds journalists their job is to uncover what the state keeps hidden

I’m getting a bit tired of the US Espionage Act. For that matter, I’ve been pretty weary of the Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning saga for a long time. No one wants to talk about their personalities because no one seems to like them very much – even those who have benefited journalistically from their revelations.

From the start, I’ve been worried about the effect of Wikileaks, not on the brutal western governments whose activities it has disclosed in shocking detail (especially in the Middle East) but on the practice of journalism. When we scribes were served up this Wikileaks pottage, we jumped in, paddled around and splashed the walls of reporting with our cries of horror. And we forgot that real investigative journalism was about the dogged pursuit of truth through one’s own sources rather than upsetting a bowl of secrets in front of readers, secrets which Assange and co – rather than us – had chosen to make public.

Why was it, I do recall asking myself almost 10 years ago, that we could read the indiscretions of so many Arabs or Americans but so few Israelis? Just who was mixing the soup we were supposed to eat? What had been left out of the gruel?

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-trial-wikileaks-us-security-services-state-secrets-robert-fisk-a8936296.html

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2019 in North America

 

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Charging Julian Assange Under the Espionage Act Is an Attack on the First Amendment

It’s a sad day in America when the most appropriate thing to say is the line often misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” When basic rights are under attack from the government, the arguments that are called for are neither original nor subtle. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that it was charging the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, for his connection to the leak of some seven hundred and fifty thousand confidential military and diplomatic documents, in 2010. The indictment of Assange is an offensive on the First Amendment that is as banal as it is blunt.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/charging-julian-assange-under-the-espionage-act-is-an-attack-on-the-first-amendment

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in North America, Uncategorized

 

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Why is the left blinkered to claims about Assange and sexual assault?

In case you’ve forgotten, or have been confused by politicians who failed to mention it, let me remind you why I believe Julian Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years before he was ejected and arrested last week. I don’t believe it was for being a journalist or a truth-teller to power, and it wasn’t for releasing evidence of America’s war crimes. He was in the embassy because, in 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant so that he might answer allegations of sexual assault and rape. Assange would not accept extradition, jumped bail in the UK and absconded.

So it was curious to hear Diane Abbott, when answering questions about Labour’s enthusiastic objection to Assange’s possible extradition to the US to face charges of involvement in a computer-hacking conspiracy, say those sexual assault charges were “never brought”. The allegations were made, she generously conceded, but the charges were never brought.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/15/left-blinkered-claims-julian-assange-sexual-assault

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Europe

 

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You Don’t Have to Like Julian Assange to Defend Him

You do not have to spend a long time in a room with Julian Assange to realize that he will be difficult. It takes a little longer, though, to realize just how difficult dealing with him can be. This was the lesson I learned in 2010, working first with Assange, and then for him at WikiLeaks, as we published tranche after tranche of bombshell material, leaked by Chelsea Manning.

That was the year Assange—and the whistle-blowing website he runs—came to the world’s attention. First it published the dynamite “Collateral Murder” video, showing an attack on a group of people, including two Reuters journalists, by American military helicopters in Iraq.

Though few knew it at the time, this was the first in a series of ever larger and more dramatic leaks of classified documents, shedding unprecedented light on how the United States conducted its wars, its diplomacy, and its detentions: the Afghan and Iraq War logs, the American diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo Bay files. These were published in partnership with some of the world’s biggest news outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Le Monde. These organizations quickly learned Assange was not the kind of person they were used to dealing with.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/julian-assange-arrested-journalists-defend/586936/

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Europe, North America

 

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Julian Assange’s Legal Trouble, Explained

British police ended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s six-and-a-half-year sojourn in Ecuador’s London embassy by carrying him headfirst out of the building on Thursday after Quito revoked his asylum.

With a long white beard, his shock of white hair tied back, and clutching a Gore Vidal book, Assange was forced out of the embassy from which he has run his transparency organization since taking refuge there in 2012.

Assange was shuttled to a London courtroom, where he was quickly convicted on charges of violating the terms of his bail.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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