By Neenah Payne
The pressure on the UK Government to free Julian Assange is very high — and growing massively now! Update on October 8 Rally For Julian Assange shows that Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, worked to have 5,000 people surround Parliament on October 8. She reported:
We needed 5,000 people to complete the circle. We achieved that, and much more. People were standing shoulder to shoulder. Former British ambassador Craig Murray, who walked around the human chain, estimated numbers were 10,000-12,000. The images from the day speak for themselves.
Stella’s report on the rally is shown below.
— Stella Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@Stella_Assange) October 8, 2022
NY Times, British, French, German, and Spanish Leading News Organizations Urge US to Drop Charges Against Julian Assange
BY DOMINICK MASTRANGELO – 11/28/22
A number of the world’s leading news organization, including The New York Times, are urging the U.S. government to drop charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, citing First Amendment concerns. In an open letter from the Times, the United Kingdom’s The Guardian, France’s Le Monde, Spain’s El País and Germany’s Der Spiegel, the media companies argued charges against Assange should be dropped.
Assange was arrested in London in April 2019 on a U.S. warrant and charged under the Espionage Act following the publication of a series of classified materiel that revealed “corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale,” the outlets noted.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” the outlets said. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Assange helped Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, steal classified diplomatic cables and other material that was later released by WikiLeaks. The WikiLeaks founder has fought for years in British court to avoid being sent to the U.S. to face the charges, and in July appealed against extradition to the U.S.
New York Times: Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Its Charges Against Assange
In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange “sets a dangerous precedent” that could chill reporting about matters of national security.
The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.
In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”
Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.
A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that the company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in consultation with the legal department, decided to sign the letter.
Publishing Is Not A Crime
First outlets to publish WikiLeaks material, including the Guardian, come together to oppose prosecution
The US government must drop its prosecution of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange because it is undermining press freedom, according to the media organisations that first helped him publish leaked diplomatic cables.
Twelve years ago today, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País collaborated to release excerpts from 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the “Cablegate” leak. The material, leaked to WikiLeaks by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning, exposed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the world.
The editors and publishers of the media organisations that first published those revelations have come together to publicly oppose plans to charge Assange under a law designed to prosecute first world war spies. “Publishing is not a crime,” they said, saying the prosecution is a direct attack on media freedom.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019. He had spent the previous seven years living inside the diplomatic premises to avoid arrest after failing to surrender to a UK court on matters relating to a separate case. The then UK home secretary, Priti Patel, approved Assange’s extradition to the US in June but his lawyers are appealing against this decision.
Under Barack Obama’s leadership, the US government indicated it would not prosecute Assange for the leak in 2010 because of the precedent it would set. The media outlets are now appealing to the administration of President Joe Biden – who was vice-president at that time – to drop the charges.
The full letter sent by the media organisations
Publishing is not a crime: The US government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.
Twelve years ago, on November 28th 2010, our five international media outlets – the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel – published a series of revelations in cooperation with WikiLeaks that made the headlines around the globe.
“Cablegate”, a set of 251,000 confidential cables from the US state department, disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.
In the words of the New York Times, the documents told “the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money”. Even now in 2022, journalists and historians continue to publish new revelations, using the unique trove of documents.
For Julian Assange, publisher of WikLeaks, the publication of “Cablegate” and several other related leaks had the most severe consequences. On April 12th 2019, Assange was arrested in London on a US arrest warrant, and has now been held for three and a half years in a high-security British prison usually used for terrorists and members of organised crime groups. He faces extradition to the US and a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison.
This group of editors and publishers, all of whom had worked with Assange, felt the need to publicly criticise his conduct in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, and some of us are concerned about the allegations in the indictment that he attempted to aid in computer intrusion of a classified database. But we come together now to express our grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials.
The Obama-Biden administration, in office during the WikiLeaks publication in 2010, refrained from indicting Assange, explaining that they would have had to indict journalists from major news outlets too. Their position placed a premium on press freedom, despite its uncomfortable consequences. Under Donald Trump however, the position changed. The DoJ relied on an old law, the Espionage Act of 1917 (designed to prosecute potential spies during world war one), which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.
This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press. Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.
Twelve years after the publication of “Cablegate”, it is time for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.
Publishing is not a crime.
The editors and publishers of:
The New York Times
False Charge of Espionage Spells End of Investigative Journalism
In the April 2011 interview Assange Speaks, Julian explained that WikiLeaks asked the New York Times, The Guardian in Britain, and Der Spiegel in Germany to assist with the redaction of materials from Cablegate to protect individuals from unfair incarceration or execution. However, because both the NYTimes and The Guardian redacted all sorts of material for very different reasons — behavior that was flagrantly immoral — the collaboration with the New York Times and The Guardian in England fell apart. WikiLeaks collaborated successfully with El Pais in Spain and Le Monde in France.
Der Spiegel wrote a book on what happened, and The Guardian wrote a book to cover up its role in violating the contract with WikiLeaks. The NY Times came out with a book to try to justify its behavior. The Guardian and NYTimes claimed they handled the material responsibly but WikiLeaks did not. They claim they had a high regard for human life while WikiLeaks had a callous disregard.
Assange explained that the NYTimes has done everything possible to sell WikiLeaks down the river to try to save its own skin in relation to the US Espionage Act. If Assange and WikiLeaks are conspirators to commit espionage, these other publications – and their journalists who collaborated – are also guilty of espionage. Assange says the national security sector in the US is trying to establish a very dangerous precedent that any journalist who corresponds with a source will be guilty of espionage if a classified communication is made. That spells the end of investigative journalism.
The interviewer points out that the upheaval in Tunisia is being labeled “The WikiLeaks Revolution” and asks about Egypt (and the Arab Spring). Assange provides a very detailed, nuanced reply and concludes,
There is no doubt that Tunisia was THE example for Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and all the protests that have happened there. It’s extremely gratifying to see this happening. The political elite of that whole region is handing out concessions hand over foot in terms of changing positions in the cabinet, greater representation for different groups, watering down various security laws…. So, in these regions, either there will be a total overthrow of the political elite or very important concessions will be extracted.
Assange says that the case against WikiLeaks “provides a platform to talk about censorship, to talk about how important free speech is, the right to publish, the right of people in the community to communicate knowledge to each other, the importance of keeping the historical record accurate and preserved and that it not be just be about a hundred years ago, but be about last week.”
Why Accurate Information Is So Important
Julian Assange in conversation with Slavoj Zizek moderated by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman is a 2012 video in which Assange explained:
What advances us as a civilization is the entirety of our intellectual record and the entirely of our understanding about what we are going through, what human institutions are actually like and how they actually behave. If we are to make rational policy decisions — in so far as any decision can be rational – then we have to have information that is drawn from the real world — a description of the real world.
At the moment, we are severely lacking in material from the interior of secretive organizations that has such a role in shaping how civilizations evolve and how we all live. So, getting down into Iraq, that was 400,000 documents which provided a death count of civilians, US military troops, Iraqi troops, and suspected insurgents. So, it was the largest most detailed history of a war to have every been published probably at all, but definitely during the course of a war. It provided a picture of the everyday squalor of war – children being killed at roadside blocks, over a thousand people being handed over to the Iraqi police for torture – linking up with other information such as the video of the men surrendering and being attacked.
So, as an archive of human history, this is a beautiful and horrifying thing – both at the same time. It is the history of the nation of Iraq in the most significant recording during its most significant development in the past 20 years….This provides the broad scope of the entire war. It details over 104,000 deaths. 15,000 Iraqi civilians were killed who were never before reported in any manner whatsoever in the Iraqi press, the US press, or the world press — even in aggregate. Not reported whatsoever.
Just think about that – 15,000 people whose deaths were recorded by the US military but were unknown to the rest of the world. That’s a very significant thing when you compare that to the 3,000 people who died in 9/11. Imagine the significance for Iraqis. That is something I specialize in and like to do – to go from the small to the large, to the relationship that has to do with civilization as a whole.
Assange explains that WikiLeaks entered into relationships with 80 media companies in 50 countries to get the story out to a wider public. Those journalists have become educated and radicalized. He said that the goal of WikiLeaks is to protect the right of people to communicate with one another — which he defines as the basic ingredient of civilized life. It’s a quest to protect the historical record and to enable everyone to contribute to it. Assange says that the distortion of our history by the media is our single greatest impediment to advancement.
The White House was asked point blank about the New York Times story, here is the response:
Wear Your Support
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