In my recent post on the current hearings at the Old Bailey over Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, where he would almost certainly be locked away for the rest of his life for the crime of doing journalism, I made two main criticisms of the Guardian.
A decade ago, remember, the newspaper worked closely in collaboration with Assange and Wikileaks to publish the Iraq and Afghan war diaries, which are now the grounds on which the US is basing its case to lock Assange behind bars in a super-max jail.
My first criticism was that the paper had barely bothered to cover the hearing, even though it is the most concerted attack on press freedom in living memory. That position is unconscionably irresponsible, given its own role in publishing the war diaries. But sadly it is not inexplicable. In fact, it is all too easily explained by my second criticism.
A journalist due to testify at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing makes a very pertinent point. This is the biggest attack on press freedom in our lifetimes. Why are UK editors not demanding to be heard at the Old Bailey? Where are they? Where is the Guardian? https://t.co/fFRFvGpYdi
— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) September 8, 2020
That criticism was chiefly levelled at two leading journalists at the Guardian, former investigations editor David Leigh and reporter Luke Harding, who together wrote a book in 2011 that was the earliest example of what would rapidly become a genre among a section of the liberal media elite, most especially at the Guardian, of vilifying Assange.
In my earlier post I set out Leigh and Harding’s well-known animosity towards Assange – the reason why one senior investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, told the Old Bailey courtroom the pair’s 2011 book was “not a reliable source”. That was, in part, because Assange had refused to let them write his official biography, a likely big moneymaker. The hostility had intensified and grown mutual when Assange discovered that behind his back they were writing an unauthorised biography while working alongside him.
But the bad blood extended more generally to the Guardian, which, like Leigh and Harding, repeatedly betrayed confidences and manoeuvred against Wikileaks rather the cooperating with it.