- 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: free speech, julian assange
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.