Assange’s torture and the death of journalism

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 pm, September 6th, 2020 - 60 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, activism, censorship, democracy under attack, journalism, Media, Spying, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, uk politics, us politics - Tags: ,

On the eve of Assange’s extradition hearing in London, award-winning freelancer Jonathan Cook has written a scathing indictment of corporate journalism’s collusion in ignoring his official torture. I posted an example of that here last year, where Richard Harman denied Assange was a journalist at a panel convened at Parliament by the British High Commissioner.

What Assange has been subjected to in his extensive confinement in Ecuadorean asylum and Belmarsh prison has been described as psychological torture by Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.

Noyomi Hayase says that the charges against Assange are part of a war on journalism. She says:

This is the first time that the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to prosecute a journalist, in this case an Australian citizen publishing material from outside of the U.S.

The attack on the First Amendment became naked during the February phase of the U.K. hearing of the U.S. request for Assange’s extradition. On the first day of what unfolded as a grotesque show trial, Assange was subjected to strip searches twice, handcuffed 11 times, and his legal material was confiscated by prison officers. In the courtroom he was held behind a glass pane in the presence of private security officers, away from his lawyers, contrary to the accepted international standard.

Cook outlines the strategy:

And second, Assange had to be made to suffer horribly and in public — to be made an example of — to deter other journalists from ever following in his footsteps. He is the modern equivalent of a severed head on a pike displayed at the city gates.

The very obvious fact — confirmed by the media coverage of his case — is that this strategy, advanced chiefly by the U.S.  and U.K.  (with Sweden playing a lesser role), has been wildly successful. Most corporate media journalists are still enthusiastically colluding in the vilification of Assange — mainly at this stage by ignoring his awful plight.

An example of this enthusiastic collusion was shown at an event last year in the Grand Hall of Parliament, where the Bristish High commissioner Laura Clarke held a function to mark World Press Freedom day. The panel included Richard Harman and Tova O’Brien. Peace activist Alex Hills exercised her  freedom of speech and delivered a stinging defence of Julian Assange’s right to freedom of speech:

Richard Harman quoted the Guardian’s Luke Harding as authority to deny Julian Assange’s status as a journalist. Harding has form on Assange. As Jonathan Cook notes:

The Guardian newspaper even went so far as to openly fabricate a story — in which it falsely reported that a Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and unnamed “Russians” secretly visited Assange in the embassy — without repercussion or retraction.

Luke Harding wrote the Manafort story. His own credibility as a journalist is suspect and he is certainly not credible as an authority on Assange.

The final word is with Jonathan Cook:

Assange has been blighted by deteriorating health and cognitive decline as a result, and has lost significant weight. None of that has been deemed worthy by the corporate media of more than a passing mention — specifically when Assange’s poor health made him incapable of attending a court hearing.

Instead Melzer’s repeated warnings about the abusive treatment of Assange and its effects on him have fallen on deaf ears. The media has simply ignored Melzer’s findings, as though they were never published, that Assange has been, and is being, tortured.

We need only pause and imagine how much coverage Melzer’s report would have received had it concerned the treatment of a dissident in an official enemy state like Russia or China.

Julian Assange’s crime has been to lift the veil on the ugly side of politics and war among our so-called allies, self-proclaimed guardians of democracy and free speech.

He deserves all our support.

60 comments on “Assange’s torture and the death of journalism ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Well, we always knew that the charges against Assange were a witch hunt and that the Establishment were going to get their witch come what may.

  2. RedLogix 2

    No too many left wingers give a shit anymore. For a start everyone is bruised and battered from the endless debates over the sexual allegations; for a second the entire profession of 'journalist' no longer holds much respect, and thirdly … well the authoritarian left cares much less about the freedom of speech and the press than it used to.

    Nonetheless this long drawn out crucifixion (and I choose that word carefully) has been a depressing and dismal episode.

    • Anne 2.1

      For a start everyone is bruised and battered from the endless debates over the sexual allegations;

      I contemplated a comment along those lines yesterday but decided to stay out of it. However since you have brought it up RL I wholeheartedly concur. The sex thing was a well coordinated storm in a tea cup, especially given the two women it concerned withdrew their complaint. That is my understanding anyway.

      The establishment malice towards the man is unprecedented in modern history. They collectively decided to target him in an effort to deter others from delving into the secret machinations of governments or as Mike Smith puts it… the ugly side of politics and war.

      • Anne 2.1.1

        Actually we have seen our own version of those “machinations” as laid out in the book "Hit and Run". I note the Defence Service has gone into silent mode since the release of the Inquiry findings.

    • Brigid 2.2

      'No too many', 'everyone', 'the authoritarian left' couldn't give a rats arse about Assange

      But you express this crucifixion as a depressing and dismal episode.

      How magnanimous of you.

      • RedLogix 2.2.1

        The Assange question has a long history here and most of the regulars have a fair sense of everyone's position. Maybe you've missed most of this, but as with francesca and number of others (sorry I can't accurately recall them all), I've consistently argued much the same as Mike Smith's OP … that the entire hot mess was largely driven by political malice from the US authorities all along. And events have now proven this view correct.

        That's the whole point of Western Civilisation and the Enlightenment, it's not that we're perfect and don't make terrible mistakes, but it's that we have the right to talk about our failures and decide how to aim for better in the future.

        Assange's treatment has struck directly at the heart of this principle.

      • greywarshark 2.2.2

        Pity Brigid that you can't keep to the subject of Assange and his ill-treatment.

        <i>The establishment malice towards the man is unprecedented in modern history. </i>

        It is wise not to soak this malice up even in diluted form, it's like the terminator, it finds other bits of malice, coalesces and forms into a powerful and scary weapon.

    • Siobhan 2.3

      "… For a start everyone is bruised and battered from the endless debates over the sexual allegations; for a second the entire profession of 'journalist' no longer holds much respect, and thirdly .."

      …all the more reason to actually either give a shit..or admit to ones self that hyperthetical you or your imagined Authoritarian Leftie you apparently know so well, is neither Left wing..nor even politically engaged…seriously, who doesn't care about Assange or press freedoms? If you are that easily put off such a fundamental issue there is no point ever fighting for anything..ever…

  3. Byd0nz 3

    Human rights for terrorists but not for Julian Assange in the UK and throughout the American led free world as can be seen by the weak response to the UK treatment of Assange by the free world. No justice for truth seekers or the whistle blowers who speak it. Lovely World this free world ain’t it.

    [Fixed typo in user name]

  4. Incognito 4

    Poisoning with Novichok seems more ‘humane’, in comparison.

    • francesca 4.1

      "Novichok seems more humane"

      Especially as it doesn't work

      Bone saws in Embassies and "suicides"are also good options. They don't attract sanctions or have serious economic and diplomatic consequences

      Assange's fate , to many armchair experts , is his own damn fault for not surrendering to the Swedish.

      I'm afraid it sickens me to the stomach to watch how a concerted campaign of character assassination , vicious mockery and sadism has found such fertile ground

      • francesca 4.1.1

        Why oh why can't the Russians learn from the Western nations in their crushing of dissenters?

      • RedLogix 4.1.2

        I'm afraid it sickens me to the stomach to watch how a concerted campaign of character assassination , vicious mockery and sadism has found such fertile ground

        Yes. On this I have to 100% agree. There are no perfect people, but Assange's treatment at the hands of so many 'kind, inclusive and political pure' left wing activists has been something to behold.

        It certainly opened my eyes.

        • Ad 4.1.2.1

          100% well said Red

        • SPC 4.1.2.2

          As if some on the left not standing by someone persecuted by the establishment is the real problem.

          • RedLogix 4.1.2.2.1

            If they had quietly 'not stood by' Assange because they had doubts, this would have been understandable. But the years and years of attacking him and anyone who did stand up for him is a lot harder to process.

            • RedLogix 4.1.2.2.1.1

              Ever asked yourself why I no longer author or moderate here?

            • SPC 4.1.2.2.1.2

              Come on do not be shy.

              Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

              Are you afraid of being deplatformed by those of PC/wokeness/identity politics

              In Malaysia they accused a politician of that

              'domestic-intimate' sphere must remain hidden from the public eye and sheltered.

          • greywarshark 4.1.2.2.2

            Oh hell, is there another problem? Please describe SPC.

        • Incognito 4.1.2.3

          We all have a dark side that’s itching to express itself and take over control, only protected by a skin-deep layer. I could only speculate as to why some self-confessed lefties appear to be particularly prone to publically demonstrating this Jekyll & Hyde behaviour – without even realising, may I add.

  5. mosa 5

    No surprises about Harman's comment about Assange. He threw away his journalist principles in the 1980s and jumped on the corporate bandwagon with the rest of our so called media representative's.

  6. KJT 6

    @Redlogix.

    Couldn't resist mentioning "Authoritarian left" eh.

    In a post about the callousness and suppression of dissent from the "Authoritarian right".

    From a “left winger” , ” giving a shit”.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      When I started here in 2007, freedom of speech and an abhorrence of censorship was a core value and apparently inviolate principle among left wingers. Now, in the era of 'hate speech', de-platforming and cancel culture …. not so much.

      Of course speech that is out of bounds does exist, but the authoritarian instinct on the left keeps moving the boundary to suit it's own political goals. While oddly enough now it's voices on the right who are more likely to express support for freedom of speech.

      There has definitely been a real shift on this since around 2013.

      • adam 6.1.1

        I reserve the right to shout theater in the middle of a red hot fire.

        Frees speech is not free, it's in the interests of those who like control to curtail it as much as possible.

        Julian needs two miracles to reach sainthood. The forgiveness of the two women involved is first. The resurrection of the media as a social good, could be the second.

  7. Kerry 7

    Yeah…..he was still able to father two kids…..so couldn’t be in that much of a “physical decline”. Also…he chose to lock himself away in the embassy…..life’s tuff….then you die.

    • greywarshark 7.1

      Kerry I'm sorry you have had a bad time, and Assange has come off lightly in comparison. I guess your resignation about it all – life's tuff – enables you to struggle on. Very brave of you.

  8. KJT 8

    @Francesca. 4.1.1.

    Meanwhile, we give Aussie terrorists fairer treatment.

  9. Jake 9

    You are completely wrong about Luke Jenning. He is a highly respected journalist. Your link was who? Assange closely linked with Roger Stone.

  10. Kerry 10

    He managed to father two children…so obviously not in serious physical decline!

    not to mention his self imposed holiday stay at the embassy!

  11. Ad 11

    It does bug me that so many governments have acceded to US demands on this.

    Now, Assange may well be an asshole, but there are plenty of asshole reporters in the world who need defending:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1efOs0BsE0g

  12. Re the Alex Hills clip: if Ms Clarke's chin had been lifted any higher in disdain, she'd have busted her neck.

  13. KJT 13

    Mike. Mods. Please feel free to shift my and RL's OT to open Mike.

    Would do it myself if I could.

  14. Andre 14

    Cook and Hayase might have made a more persuasive case about the failings of journalism if their own pieces weren't themselves such blatant examples of propaganda.

    To note just a few of the more obvious examples, they both use language that implies Assange's time in the Ecuadorian embassy as some kind of externally imposed arbitrary detention. Assange was there by his choice and actions, nobody else's. He was free to leave at any time. To be sure, leaving would have had follow-on consequences due to the fact he was fleeing from law authorities when he first entered the embassy, but that doesn't change the fact that his time in the embassy was his choice that he could have ended at any time of his choosing.

    Cook says "stormed the embassy" and "invaded the embassy". That language clearly implies force against the will of the legitimate controllers of the premises. Ahem. Police were invited to the embassy to remove Assange by the government of Ecuador.

    Cook's apparent denial of Russian fuckery in 2016 even after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, and worse, his repetition of the evidence-free assertion the Wikileaks material was leaked by a Dem insider (which is continuing the Seth Rich smear) just shows a wilful blindness to evidence and reason.

    There was a complete absence of any mention of the late 2013 reports that the Obama administration decided that prosecuting Assange was a non-starter because of the "New York Times problem". If Assange were 1/100th the courageous champion of free speech and transparency his cultists and he himself apparently believe he is (and the likes of Manning, Snowden, Winner etc actually are), he could have left the embassy then. Let alone the irony that it's now the Kumquat Pol Pot administration he worked so hard to help get elected that is now trying to extradite him.

    • Professor Longhair 14.1

      Anyone with any sense will recognize the bias and malice of the Russia-obsessed fantasist Andre's attack on not only Assange, but Jonathan Cook. Anyone with any sense will of course read Cook, who unlike "Andre", knows what he is talking about. These three paragraphs in particular bear repeating, and will resonate with anyone who cares about the truth of this horrifying case….

      After the Swedish case evaporated and there were no reasonable grounds left for not letting Assange walk free from the embassy, the media suddenly decided in chorus that a technical bail violation was grounds enough for his continuing confinement in the embassy – or, better still, his arrest and jailing.

      That breach of bail, of course, related to Assange’s decision to seek asylum in the embassy, based on a correct assessment that the US planned to demand his extradition and imprisonment.

      None of these well-paid journalists seemed to remember that, in British law, failure to meet bail conditions is permitted if there is “reasonable cause” – and fleeing political persecution is very obviously just such a reasonable cause.

      http://www.coldtype.net/Assets19/pdf/ColdType183.May2019.pdf

      [You could have made your comment leaving out all of the BS about Andre. You basically attacked another commenter for having an opinion that you vehemently disagree with. It does not help the debate one bit and lowers the tone and quality of commentary. Please keep the personal shit to a bare minimum and preferably completely out of it if you’d like to keep your commenting privileges here. This also applies to your bestus best friend who has surprisingly similar tendencies to play the man rather than the ball – Incognito]

    • McFlock 14.2

      As someone who thinks Assange probably deserves protection from the US for the war leaks (the argument of actively requesting rather than passively receiving is interesting, but likely over-inflated by the US) but thinks he should have remained in Sweden to answer sexual assault charges a decade ago, I can't be bothered dealing with the idiots who insist on conflating the two again.

      • Andre 14.2.1

        Yeah, that aspect of it is really tiresome. I spent the first few hours of this post being up thinking I just really couldn't be bothered.

        But in the end it was just too much to ignore that someone might use pieces of blatant overt propaganda that use many of the usual propaganda techniques as a launching pad to whine about other media.

    • Grumpy 14.3

      There is huge evidence that the Russians did not hack the DNC servers like Seth Rich (probably was him) downloading the emails onto a drive and then on to Assange.

      He will probably finish up another victim of Arkancide.

    • francesca 14.4

      Assange's stay in the Embassy was totally voluntary?

      Not according to the UN Andre .And I would follow the UN's expertise in this matter before yours , especially when it comes to human rights …but keep on digging…

      https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17013

      And the removal of Assange from the Embassy ?

      Totally unprecedented in modern times , the sanctity of asylum was torn up

      CNN reported Assange was forcibly removed

      There's an implication of force there despite what you say

      "CNN reported that "British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London… forcibly removing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a US extradition …"

      It's a classic trick of yours to diligently comb through any source linked to , to discredit anything you dont like

      Not a good faith way to argue

      Stick to the topic in hand

      • Andre 14.4.1

        Ecuador revoked Assange's asylum, as they have the right to do. There was no violation of the sanctity of asylum. It's not anything unprecedented, as a quick search of a phrase such as revocation of asylum will show.

        Force was used when Assange resisted leaving where he had no legal right to remain and was effectively a trespasser.

      • lurgee 14.4.2

        Totally unprecedented in modern times , the sanctity of asylum was torn up

        The Ecuadorian embassy revoked his asylum. So the 'sanctity' was not violated.

        CNN reported Assange was forcibly removed

        There's an implication of force there despite what you say

        "CNN reported that "British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London… forcibly removing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a US extradition …"

        Yeah, he had to be taken out because he lacked the guts to walk out.

        If you read the source article for that quote, you'll find it explains he responded to his arrest with violence:

        "He was eventually arrested at 10:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. ET) but resisted and had to restrained, leading to dramatic scenes of British police hauling him by force out of the building. After being lifted into the waiting police van, he was taken directly to a police station where he was formally arrested."

        And if confirms he did not have asylum because the Ecuadorians had revoked it:

        https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/11/uk/julian-assange-arrested-gbr-intl/index.html

        The left has spent a decade shredding its credibility over Assange. Just stop.

    • Morrissey 14.5

      Cook's apparent denial of Russian fuckery in 2016 even after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report…

      Cook doesn't deny that there was Russian "fuckery", as you so inelegantly term it. Of course there was. How Cook, like anyone with any integrity, differs from you is that he doesn't accept wholesale the ridiculous conspiracy theories peddled by the likes of Rachel Maddow. Your attempt to associate this renowned journalist with the Trumpian Seth Rich fantasies is as ludicrous as your continued reiteration of the fantastical allegations that Trump is a Russian agent.

      • Andre 14.5.1

        Clue for the clueless: if you need to try to persuade a reader that someone is credible by using words such as "renowned" – they're not.

  15. Have a look on Wikipedia and see the number of times in history asylum has been revoked .for trivial or any reasons

    Assange's removal was a departure from international norms all right

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_took_refuge_in_a_diplomatic_mission

    Frankly Andre , I think it's better to just quit this unproductive discussion Neither of us is likely to be won over by the other

  16. lurgee 16

    Why are the left are willing throw justice for women under the bus for Assange?

    • Drowsy M. Kram 16.1

      I'm all for justice for women, men, and even Assange.

      Excerpts from a report on the demonisation of Assange. UN special rapporteur on torture Melzer "admits that he was himself initially taken in by the propaganda campaign."

      "Four democratic countries joined forces – the U.S., Ecuador, Sweden and the UK – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could later be burned at the stake without any outcry. The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press."

      "There is only a single explanation for everything – for the refusal to grant diplomatic assurances, for the refusal to question him in London: They wanted to apprehend him so they could extradite him to the U.S. The number of breaches of law that accumulated in Sweden within just a few weeks during the preliminary criminal investigation is simply grotesque."

      https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2002/S00093/un-special-rapporteur-on-torture-demolishes-the-fake-claims-targeting-julian-assange.htm

    • RedLogix 16.2

      You could have had justice for both the women involved AND Assange if the Swedish, UK or even the Australian govts had wanted it. But they didn't.

      And here we are.

  17. Nic the NZer 18

    @joe90, I understood this had been corroborated by something related to the Muller investigation.

  18. Nic the NZer 19

    @joe90, But as I read the reporting it says he made an offer to Assange of a pardon without asking Trump. So that this discussion happened is corroborated is it not?

  19. greywarshark 20

    Sep.8 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/08/wikileaks-julian-assange-fights-extradition-to-the-us-in-london-court.html

    Sep.8 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/julian-assange-court-extradition-arrest-charges-old-bailey-b405782.html

    Sep.8 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8707367/Julian-Assanges-fiancee-seen-outside-court-friend-stars-lawyer.html

    Sep.7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OW5BXD-lg0
    The Telegraph – Downing Street has refused to accept petition from Julian Assange’s partner against his extradition.

    Sep.7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmz2wC4m4qs
    U.K. judge rejects Julian Assange bid to delay U.S. extradition case

    Sep.8 https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/julian-assange-suffers-setback-during-first-day-of-extradition-hearing-20200908-p55td2.html
    The Australian-born 49-year-old faces up to 175 years in prison in the United States if convicted. He is accused of 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of classified military and diplomatic cables in 2010.

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