Assange Is A Journalist, Should Not Be Persecuted For Publishing The Truth

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Above: Free Assange protest at UK embassy in Washington, DC, June 19, 2018. By Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance.

Last week, rallies in support of Julian Assange were held around the world. We participated in two #AssangeUnity events seeking to #FreeAssange in Washington, DC.

This is the beginning of a new phase of the campaign to stop the persecution of Julian Assange and allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without the threat of being arrested in the UK or facing prosecution by the United States.

On April 10 2017 people gathered outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to celebrate the 11th Birthday of WikiLeaks. From Wise-Up Action: A Solidarity Network for Manning and Assange.

The Assange Case is a Linchpin For Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Information in the 21st Century

The threat of prosecution against Julian Assange for his work as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks will be a key to defining what Freedom of the Press means in the 21st Century. Should people be allowed to know the truth if their government is corrupt, violating the law or committing war crimes? Democracy cannot exist when people are misled by a concentrated corporate media that puts forth a narrative on behalf of the government and big business.

This is not the first time that prosecution of a journalist will define Freedom of the Press. Indeed, the roots of Freedom of the Press in the United States go back to the prosecution of John Peter Zenger, a publisher who was accused of libel in 1734 for publishing articles critical of the British royal governor, William Cosby. Zenger was held in prison for eight months awaiting trial. In the trial, his defense took its case directly to the jury.

For five hundred years, Britan had made it illegal to publish “any slanderous News” that may cause “discord” between the king and his people. Zenger’s defense argued that he had published the truth about Cosby and therefore did not commit a crime. His lawyer “argued that telling the truth did not cause governments to fall. Rather, he argued, ‘abuse of power’ caused governments to fall.” The jury heard the argument, recessed and in ten minutes returned with a not guilty verdict.

The same issue is presented by Julian Assange — publishing the truth is not a crime. Wikileaks, with  Assange as its editor and publisher, redefined reporting in the 21st Century by giving people the ability to be whistleblowers to reveal the abuses of government and big business. People anonymously send documents to Wikileaks via the Internet and then after reviewing and authenticating them, Wikileaks publishes them.  The documents sometimes reveal serious crimes, which has resulted in Assange being threatened with a secret indictment for espionage that could keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life.

This puts the Assange case at the forefront of 21st Century journalism as he is democratizing the media by giving people the power to know the truth not reported, or falsely reported, by the corporate media. Breaking elite control over the media narrative is a serious threat to their power because information is power. And, with the internet and the ability of every person to act as a media outlet through social and independent media, control of the narrative is moving toward the people.

WikiLeaks is filling a void with trust in the corporate media at record lows. A recent Gallup Poll found only 32% trust the media. There has been a significant drop in newspaper circulation and revenue, an ongoing decline since 1980. Also, fewer people rely on television for news.

In this environment, the internet-based news is becoming more dominant and WikiLeaks is a particular threat to media monopolization by the elites. Research is showing that independent and social media are having an impact on people’s opinions.

The threats to Julian Assange are occurring when dissent is under attack, particularly media dissent; the FBI has a task force to monitor social media. The attack on net neutrality, Google using algorithms to prevent searches for alternative media and Facebook controlling the what people see are all part of the attack on the democratized media..

Free Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger. By Jack Taylor for Getty Images

The Astounding Impact of WikiLeaks’ Reporting

The list of WikiLeaks’ revelations has become astounding. The release of emails from Hillary Clinton, her presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee had a major impact on the election. People saw the truth of Clinton’s connections to Wall Street, her two-faced politics of having a public view and a private view as well as the DNC’s efforts to undermine the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. People saw the truth and the truth hurt Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Among the most famous documents published were those provided by Chelsea Manning on Iraq, Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Prison and the US State Department. The Collateral Murder video among the Manning Iraq war documents shows US soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist, and his driver, killing 16 and wounding two children. Millions have viewed the video showing that when a van pulled up to evacuate the wounded, the soldiers again opened fire. A soldier says, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.”

Other significant intelligence leaks followed, i.e.,  Vault 7, documents on the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities, and Vault 8, which included source code on CIA malware activities.

WikiLeaks has also published documents on other countries, e.g. WikiLeaks published a series of documents on Russian spying.  WikiLeaks has been credited by many with helping to spark the Tunisian Revolution which led to the Arab Spring, e.g., showing the widespread corruption of the 23-year rule of the Ben AliForeign Policy reported that “the candor of the cables released by WikiLeaks did more for Arab democracy than decades of backstage U.S. diplomacy.” WikiLeaks’ publications provided democracy activists in Egypt with information needed to spark protests and provided background that explained the Egyptian uprising. Traditional media publications like the New York Times relied on WikiLeaks to analyze the causes of the uprising.

WikiLeaks informed the Bahrain public about their government’s cozy relationship with the US, describing a $5 billion joint-venture with Occidental Petroleum and $300 million in U.S. military sales and how the U.S. Navy is the foundation of Bahrain’s national security.

John Pilger describes WikiLeaks’ documents, writing, “No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account.”

Free Assange rally at the White House, June 19, 2018. From Gateway Pundit.

Assange Character Assassination And Embassy Imprisonment

Julian Assange made powerful enemies in governments around the world, corporate media, and big business because he burst false narratives with the truth. As a result, governments fought back, including the United States,  Great Britain, and Sweden, which has led to Assange being trapped in the embassy of Ecuador in London for six years.

The root of the incarceration were allegations in Sweden. Sweden’s investigation of against Assange was initially dropped by the chief prosecutor,  two weeks later they found a prosecutor to pursue a rape investigation. One of the women had CIA connections and bragged about her relationship with Assange in tweets she tried to erase. She even published a 7-step program for legal revenge against lovers. The actions of the women do not seem to show rape or any kind of abuse. One woman held a party with him after the encounter and another went out to eat with him.  In November 2016, Assange was interviewed by Swedish prosecutors for four hours at the Ecuadorian embassy. In December 2016, Assange published tweets showing his innocence and the sex was consensual. Without making a statement on Assange’s guilt, the Swedish investigators dropped the investigation  without bringing any charges in May 2017. The statute of limitations for potential charges in Sweden will be up in 2020.

As John Pilger pointed out, “Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote, ‘The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder, and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will.'”

Assange is still trapped in the embassy as he would be arrested for violating his bail six years ago. But, the real threat to Assange is the possibility of a secret indictment against him in the United States for espionage. US and British officials have refused to tell Assange’s lawyers whether there was a sealed indictment or a sealed extradition order against him. Former CIA Director, now Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has described WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service and described his actions as not protected by the First Amendment. In April 2017, CNN reported, “US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.” The Obama Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn’t alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning but the Trump DOJ believes he could be charged as an accomplice with Edward Snowden.

When the president campaigned, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks and regularly touted their disclosures. But, in April 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer representing Julian Assange, talks to the media outside Westminster Magistrates Court after the court ruled that an arrest warrant against Assange is still valid, in London, Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018. By John Stillwell/PA via AP.

Time To Stop The Persecution Of Julian Assange

The smearing of Assange sought to discredit him and undermine the important journalism of WikiLeaks. Caitlin Johnstone writes that they smear him because “they can kill all sympathy for him and his outlet, it’s as good for their agendas as actually killing him.”

Even with this character assassination many people still support Assange. This was seen during the #Unity4J online vigil, which saw the participation of activists, journalists, whistleblowers andn filmmakers calling for the end of Assange’s solitary confinement and his release. This was followed a week later by 20 protests around the world calling for Assange’s release.

Julian Assange has opened journalism’s democracy door; the power to report is being redistributed, government employees and corporate whistleblowers have been empowered and greater transparency is becoming a reality. The people of the United States should demand that Assange not face prosecution and embrace a 21st Century democratized media that provides greater transparency and accurate information about what government and business interests are doing. Prosecuting a news organization for publishing the truth, should be rejected and Assange should be freed.

You can support Julian Assange by spreading the word in your communities about what is happening to him and why. You can also show support for him on social media. We will continue to let you know when there are actions planned. And you can support the WikiLeaks Legal Defense Fund, run by the Courage Foundation*, at IAmWikiLeaks.org.

*Kevin Zeese is on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation.

  • Lili-Ann Berg

    The Swedish prosecutor who re-opened the case against Assange and then refused to interview him for over 7 years was Marianne Ny. She belongs in jail for using her powerful legal position to try and damage the reputation of a brave and innocent man. Not to mention the Swedish and Australian governments cowering and despicable allegiance to their criminal overlords in Washington.

    And if the UK government arrests Julian Assange, John Pilger wrote on his website: “it will, in the eyes of the world, be shamed comprehensively and historically as an accessory to the crime of a war waged by rampant power against justice and freedom, and all of us.”

  • dave templeton

    assange is no more a ‘journalist’ than i am. he is a petty, back-biter who runs a personal slash and burn agenda. for whatever reason he has been at odds with the clintons for years now. that’s not hard to accept. what is hard for me to accept is that he is supposed to be a champion of truth and justice. he is not. he, by virtue of pursuing an uneven-handed vendetta against the clintonistas, is personally responsible for the ongoing fact that the united states has a dithering idiot in the white house because the perfect storm which produced the situation in the us capitol could not have happened without assange’s petty scheming. #tgoof (that guy in the oval office) would never have gained his seat without the machinations of assange. idiot #tgoof gets up every morning plotting against the entire world seeking ever newer and ever more bizarre ways to try to reduce the earth to a steamy mass of dreck. so long as the current political situation obtains in washington, dc, mr. assange can rot in that embassy so far as i am concerned. if he, assange, goes mad in the interim, so be it.

  • kevinzeese

    How can you say Assange is not a journalist when he publishes and edits WikiLeaks which has exposed so many crimes of government and big business interests? WikiLeaks has been the source of many major news stories. It has been one of the most important news sources of the 21st Century.

    What you are really saying is you do not like that Hillary Clinton was exposed and shown to the the Wall Street and war politician that she is. As a result she lost the election to perhaps the worst Republican candidate in history, Donald Trump. But, it is not the fault of WikiLeaks, it is the fault of Hillary Clinton. You do not like what WikiLeaks has reported — even though it is the truth, and you do not deny the truth of the WikiLeaks reports on Clinton, her campaign and the DNC — so you deny he is a reporter.

    You made a false claim to try and cover for the reality of Hillary Clinton’s career as a politician who has supported every war in the last three decades, bent over backwards for Wall Street and used her time in office from her beginning as the wife of the Arkansas governor when when she was on the board of Walmart to her time as Secretary of State where she worked on behalf of fracking and other big business interests. Hillary Clinton lost because of her record and history, don’t blame WikiLeaks for reporting the truth.

  • Dave Templeton

    Mr. Zeese, as you well know from law school, whether a person is acting as a journalist or as a private citizen depends on that person’s state of mind when he does an act.
    WHen julian Assange published his attacks on the Clintons, he was not acting as a public spirited person, he was acting as the mean spirited individual he is. He was not motivated to expose a politician or that person’s political party, he was acting for his own purposes to ‘get’ someone he doesn’t like. He did so with stolen property, the dnc emails, and knowing that most of the public, at least at that time, saw him as a white knight defending truth, justice and the American way. He further did so without considering the possible results of his illegal action. Hence my charge Assange is no more a journalist than am I. Further, he did not release any of the reams of information he has on #tgoof. That, coupled with the incredibly Ill-timed Comey fiasco led to the latest of the Republican non-winner presidential election victors.

    The characterization of the acts of an individual are determined by his motivation at the time of his act, not what the act may appear to be in a vacuum. Thus, Assange’s state of mind when he ‘went after’ HC is dispositive of what he did, not his job title. He was, and still is, a petty little back biter.

    With regard to the notion the election results are what motivates me to finally respond to the recent flurry of lefty pleas for mercy for julian, OF COURSE that’s my motivation! The thought that #tgoof and the rocket man and their ilk hold the entire world hostage to their narcissistic whimsy drives me nuts. HC was never my candidate. Why the DNC fought tooth and nail to preserve her candidacy may never be known.
    They appear not to have learned much from the enterprise so far. The difference between demmicans and republicrats eludes me. But be that as it may, the reason there is a madman in charge of the football in DC today is due, at least in part, to the acts of your so-called journalist.

    Whether the planet survives the tenure odmf #tgoof remains to be seen. In the interim my position with regard to Assange remains unchanged:

    Let him rot.

  • kevinzeese

    You are quite a mind reader!

    Assange was a journalist when he published the Clinton emails, Podesta Clinton campaign emails and the DNC documents. It was definitely a public service and informed the public about the real Hillary Clinton — essential in deciding whether to vote for her. It wa also essential in knowing that the DNC worked for Clinton long before she got the nomination.

    It seems evident you are motivated not out of whether Assange is a journalist — that is a foolish debate — but out of Trump hate. While hating Trump is understandable that does not define whether Assange is a journalist.

    Assange published extremely newsworthy documents that were definitely news during the presidential campaign.

    You can hate Trump but you misplace the blame on WikiLeaks, the blame for Hillary Clinton losing is Hillary Clinton. People need to stop making excuses and blaming Assange, Russia or whoever — Clinton is to blame for her defeat. She had a terrible record on many issues and ran a lousy campaign. How could she not even campaign in Wisconsin!?

  • kevinzeese

    I find it strange that this is your first comment ever on Popular Resistance and your first ever comment on Disqus. Are you an anti-Assange troll? Or a pro-Clinton troll? Whatever your motivation, it is strange. And making the argument that Assange is not a journalist is hard to do with a straight face. It really cannot be taken seriously.

  • dave templeton

    i must be hitting close to home when you respond twice with ad hominem attacks.

  • dave templeton

    very few things in life are caused by a single actor or occurrence. the simple fact is that it took a virtual perfect storm to make a backdrop against which the democrats could fail. that that was the case does not relieve any actor, assange included, of responsibility for the consequences. assange allowed his personal grievances against clinton (who ran what is easily the silliest and most arrogant campaign i have ever seen) to cloud his judgement. now the rest of us run the daily risk that #tgoof will go off the rails and doom us all.

  • kevinzeese

    Are you saying voters should not have seen Clinton’s, Podesta’s and DNC’s emails? It would be better if voters had not been informed?

    Informed voters with as much transparency as possible is the better path. I hope you are not advocating secrecy to protect Clinton and the Democrats.

  • Dave Templeton

    I’m saying releasing bad things about one side and stonewalling the other side’s bad acts is not protected journalism. And I’m further saying any persons harmed by that have a valid complaint against Assange. I’m saying either Assange should have gone all in on both camps or he should have stayed out. He didn’t do that and still hasn’t. He doesn’t merit the protection real journalists have earned over the past several centuries.

  • kevinzeese

    Did Assange have documents on Trump that he did not publish? WikiLeaks can only publish documents that people give to him. If he had been given newsworthy documents exposing Trump he should publish them, and I think he would have.

    I have no problem with you criticizing Assange or you hating Trump. I just have a problem with your false (and nonsensical claim) that he is not a journalist when he has published many of the most important stories of this century.

  • kevinzeese

    Under this rationale, the pro-Democratic Party cable channel, MSNBC would not be a journalist, because they have a strong bias. The same would be true for FOX news, because of their opposite bias. Publishers, editors and journalists have biases, that does not define whether they are journalists. I don’t like either FOX or MSNBC but they are still journalists – biased journalists but still journalists.

  • Dave Templeton

    Listening to him talk over the past several years makes it clear to me that he is no longer a journalist. He is a petty small person who particularly despises Clinton, her husband and at least parts of the DNC. In recent years he has taken sides in politics. If you ever did courtroom work you probably recall seeing someone on the stand and KNEW that person was a liar. That’s the person I see when Assange appears before me. He has long since left journalism for partisan politics and vendetta. He’s not swarthy, but he’s sicilians at heart. When the swedish claims first arose I rejected them out of hand. I watched an interview a couple years ago and found myself wondering about even that. It’s very disheartening when one’s former heroes fade and morph into things less than attractive.

  • kevinzeese

    How many corporate mainstream journalists could you say the same about? Their bias is evident. They even get caught lying. That has been true for the leading corporate journalist outlet in the country, the NY Times.

    The bias I see with Assange is opposed to secrecy, government abuse of power and corruption of big business. If those are his biases, then I could understand why he would hate Clinton. (He probably also hates Trump.)

    But, even if all you say is true – -that does not change the issue we are arguing about. Assange is still a journalist. He reports news. He publishes documents. He speaks truth to power. He challenges secrecy. Not only is he a journalist, he is a damn good journalist. It is hard to think of a journalist who has broken as many important stories as Assange.

    Since you claim he is a liar, can you point to a single lie he has published? No one has yet been able to do so.

  • zonmoy

    ah, so your basically trying to say that the job of journalists is to just be the propaganda mouthpieces of the elites of our empire and nothing more, that there is no room in actual journalism for those that actually expose the crimes and villainies of our rich and powerful scum that have hijacked our nation and now rule it through both the democrips and rebloodicans.

  • zonmoy

    so exposing the truth about the crooked, powerful, and villainous is just being a mean spirited person according to your shriveled up bit of morality you got left.

  • zonmoy

    most likely a pro Clinton troll. though now it means the same thing to be anti Assange and pro Clinton. pro Clinton and anti Assange are now crooked establishment supporters and little more.

  • zonmoy

    Hillary got cocky and thought that she had pied pipered into the republican nomination someone that she thought that even she could win against by default.

  • wvought

    It’s liberals like dave templeton who paved the way for Adolf Hitler by selling out the people and institutions who could have and should have been their allies, the ones on the front lines of fighting fascism. But I know it’s a waste of time to try reasoning with you. You’ll keep voting for the supposedly lesser mass murderers to the very end.

  • Alan Blanes

    Julian Assange is the world’s foremost example of a responsible citizen understanding and carrying out the duties necessary for the Nuremberg Principle to be acculturated as a necessary duty in society. Julian is one of the few who really appears to understand Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that holds there to be a duty to the community to ensure that everyones’ rights are protected.

    Standing up to state sponsored, secretive murder ought to be a clearly understood duty of all those who discover evidence for such. No sensible person would stand by and see prosecution of people who are upholding a supreme value in a democratic society.