Freedom of the Press, Julian Assange, & Imprisonment in the Time of Covid-19
The Trump Administration has declared war on the truth, on freedom of the press, and especially on fearless investigative journalists like jailed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who faces 175 years in an American prison for exposing the multitude of war crimes committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, as tens of thousands of American prisoners face an increased risk of contracting Covid-19, so does Assange, now locked away in a jail in London as he fights against extradition to the United States.
This webinar explores why Assange is seen as such a threat, how the fact of his prosecution threatens investigative journalists everywhere, and the role that racism plays in the demographics of our prison population and why, as with Assange, they face an increased risk of contracting the Coronavirus and should now be freed from their toxic confinements.
Sunday, May 17th, 12 Noon PDT on Zoom and Courage’s YouTube channel
- Moderator: Jim Lafferty, Executive Director Emeritus, National Lawyers Guild, L.A.; and host of The Lawyers Guild Show on KPFK.
- Prof. Melina Abdullah: Professor, Dept. of Pan-African Studies, Cal. State Los Angeles.; Co-founder of Black Lives Matter/LA
- Sharon Kyle: National Board member, American Civil Liberties Union; Publisher of the LA Progressive.
- Prof. Marjorie Cohn: professor emerita, Thos. Jefferson School of Law; human rights lawyer and editor/author of Drones & Targeted Killing
- Stephen Rohde: Civil liberties activist, writer, and former President of the ACLU of Southern California.
- Vincent De Stefano: Human rights activist; recipient of Amnesty International’s 2019 Urgent Letter Writer of the Year Award.
- Robert Corsini: Writer, producer and documentary filmmaker; owner of Videocratic Media.
- Nathan Fuller: Director, The Courage Foundation; Executive Director of the Committee to Defend Julian Assange and Civil Liberties
- Also: Video appearances by Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg
- ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter
- Courage Foundation
- Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
- LA Progressive
- National Lawyers Guild-LA
Every country’s history has been marred by scandals of covert newspaper-buying by economic magnates. This is happening today at the European level.
For example, in 2019 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made the following donations:
Der Spiegel: $ 2,537,294
Die Zeit: $ 297,124
Le Monde: $ 2,126,790
The Atlantic: $ 500,222
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism: $ 1,068,169
The Guardian: $ 175,000
The Project Syndicate (op-eds): $ 1,619,861
It should be noted that by funding investigations (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) or by paying authors of op-eds which are then translated and disseminated in several languages (Project Syndicate), the “donor” effectively “supports” all the newspapers that reproduce them without having to lay out any more money.
World Press Freedom Day: The Prosecution of Julian Assange
Sunday, May 3rd, is World Press Freedom Day, an international celebration of fundamental journalistic principles and an assessment of attacks on reporters’ right to hold the powerful to account. This panel, convened by the Courage Foundation, features two journalists whose reporting on the Snowden documents earned a Pulitzer Prize as well as the UK Bureau Director for Reporters without Borders, which tracks threats to journalism around the world. Their discussion focuses on the Trump administration’s indictment of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and its unprecedented charges of Espionage for the publication of truthful information in the public interest.
- Bart Gellman, staff writer at The Atlantic, author of the forthcoming “Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State”
- Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director at Reporters without Borders, monitored Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London
- Ewen MacAskill, former defence and security correspondent for The Guardian, covered WikiLeaks’ Cablegate disclosures and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations
- Aaron Maté, contributor to The Nation and host of Pushback at The Grayzone
Freedom of the press is on trial right now in London, as the Assange case has now gone 3 days. As this massive case begins, Julian Assange has been subjected to yet more intimidation, depravation and abuse. In just the first 2 days, Assange had been stripped naked and searched 2 times, handcuffed 11 times and locked up in different holding cells 5 times.
In addition, all of his court documents were taken from him by the prison wardens, including privileged communications between himself and his lawyers, leaving him with no ability to prepare to participate in the proceedings. As journalist Taylor Hudak, who is covering the event, said, this is a “selective prosecution and also a political persecution.”
Learn below why the courageous Assange, due to his extremely extensive efforts in exposing governmental war crimes and corruption, is not only morally in the right, but also very much lawfully in the right. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a landmark and unprecedented case on freedom of the press which has colossal implications for the future of free speech and journalism.
Freedom of the Press and the UK Kangaroo Court
Before we begin, let’s examine whether this is really a fair trial or not. Prima facie, one would expect that a courtroom trial involving the UK and the US would be just, given that the Magna Carta and the the US Bill of Rights sprung from those 2 liberal, freedom-upholding nations respectively. You would expect that a UK court would uphold the value of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. However, don’t count on it; there are very ominous signs that this UK court is more of a kangaroo court. The supervising judge Lady Emma Arbuthnot is riddled with conflicts of interests.
WikiLeaks itself has exposed some of the dealings of Lord James Arbuthnot, Emma’s husband, who is a former Conservative defense minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community! Arbuthnot is overseeing the district judge Vanessa Baraitser who is presiding over the Assange trial right now. Former UK ambassador Craig Murray has been one of the few who was able to get a seat (limited to 16 members of the public).
Irish MEP Mick Wallace slammed US prosecutors for “undermining” international law” during Julian Assange extradition hearings and warned that, if the whistleblower is extradited, freedom of the press will be a “thing of the past.”
Speaking outside Woolwich Crown Court on the third day of the preliminary hearings, Wallace said James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, was putting international law and freedom of the press “under serious threat.”
If the Americans get their way with the complicity of the British, freedom of the press will be a thing of the past.
Lewis argued on Wednesday that British courts can’t apply rights from international treaties which have not been established in English domestic law. He was making the case that a US-UK extradition treaty which prohibits extradition for “political offenses” is superseded by the UK’s Extradition Act of 2003, which does not contain the same provision.
Also on rt.com
Assange blasts court for preventing communication with lawyers, alleges legal team is being SPIED on
Wallace said that Assange’s case was clearly an international one and that international law cannot be ignored or undermined. He said the case would likely go to multiple appeals and questioned whether the WikiLeaks founder, who has suffered ill health and alleged inhumane treatment in the top-security Belmarsh Prison, would survive more years locked up.
“His only crime is exposing the truth about US war crimes. You cannot shout it loudly enough,” he said.
Anyone that was in Woolwich Crown Court today would have concerns for Julian #Assange and his chances of a fair trial. Also very worrying that the Prosecution are arguing that International law can be ignored when it suits – much like the #US are behaving all over the planet… https://t.co/42WrLn3V4k
— Mick Wallace (@wallacemick) February 26, 2020
Assange’s father John Shipton also spoke outside the court after the third day of hearings wrapped up, asking journalists to “advance the case that Julian get bail immediately.”
A spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders said the press freedom organization was concerned that the prosecution was arguing the international law does not apply in Assange’s case.
The Australian press redacted its “front pages” and resorted to televised announcements to protest the enforcement of the law on censorship.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have adopted highly restrictive legislation aimed at protecting state secrets.
Government censorship in never discussed in these countries, and for good reason; nevertheless, it is very widespread.
Three journalists are being prosecuted for revealing that :
the government intended to use the interception capabilities available to the “Five Eyes” (the four above-mentioned countries plus the United States) to spy on Australian citizens.
Australian special forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Americans were horrified to hear that Trump wanted to have US forces at the US-Mexico border to charge migrants with bayonets or shoot them in the legs. Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times reported that Trump wanted US forces to fire on migrants as they sought to come into the country, aiming for their legs so as to injure but not kill them. Trump has denied that he urged these courses of action, but the Washington Post was able to confirm the conversation with staffers (who objected that these steps would be illegal and who simply disregarded Trump’s instructions. Among those who pushed back was then Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who is said to have insisted that US troops not “interact” with the migrants in any way.)
The Jupiter-sized blind spot of US media, however, managed to report on all this with horror without mentioning that this procedure, of shooting people massing on the border in the legs has over the past 18 months become the routine Israeli policy, so routine that the deaths and injuries inflicted by Israeli army snipers on largely peaceful Gaza Palestinian protesters no longer make the news for the most part in the United States.
Oh, you can find the carefully, clinically worded wire service reports on the Internet if you look for them, but they seem never to come on US cable “news” and if they appear in newspapers at all they are buried in back pages. Reuters reported on September 6, for instance,
- “Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers including a 14-year-old during protests along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, Palestinian health officials said. They named the dead as Khaled Al-Rabai, 14, and Ali Al-Ashqar, 17. Seventy protesters were wounded, 38 of them by live fire, medical officials said.”
But here is the long version of the past two weeks of Israeli mayhem against the protesters, via the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
And, note these absolutely horrific numbers from Electronic Intifada:
- “More than 210 Palestinians, including 46 children, have been killed during Great March of Return protests since their launch in early 2018.
The New York Times casually acknowledged that it sends major scoops to the US government before publication, to make sure “national security officials” have “no concerns.”
The New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.
This confirms what veteran New York Times correspondents like James Risen have said:
The American newspaper of record regularly collaborates with the US government, suppressing reporting that top officials don’t want made public.
On June 15, the Times reported that the US government is escalating its cyber attacks on Russia’s power grid. According to the article, “the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively,” as part of a larger “digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.”
In response to the report, Donald Trump attacked the Times on Twitter, calling the article “a virtual act of Treason.”
The New York Times PR office replied to Trump from its official Twitter account, defending the story and noting that it had, in fact, been cleared with the US government before being printed.
“Accusing the press of treason is dangerous,” the Times communications team said.
“We described the article to the government before publication.”
“As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns,” the Times added.
Accusing the press of treason is dangerous.
We described the article to the government before publication. As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns. https://t.co/MU020hxwdc pic.twitter.com/4CIfcqKoEl
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) June 16, 2019
Indeed, the Times report on the escalating American cyber attacks against Russia is attributed to “current and former [US] government officials.” The scoop in fact came from these apparatchiks, not from a leak or the dogged investigation of an intrepid reporter.
‘Real’ journalists get approval from ‘national security’ officials
By Aaron Kesel
WikiLeaks founder and former editor Julian Assange has been charged under The Espionage Act on 17 new counts in a superseding indictment for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents prior to his extradition hearing on May 30th, Reuters reported.
WIKILEAKS RESPONDS TO ESPIONAGE ACT INDICTMENT AGAINST ASSANGE: UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK ON FREE PRESS pic.twitter.com/F0iUyr0R7F
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 24, 2019
The charges carry a shocking sentence of 175 years in prison if found guilty by the secret Espionage court — a horrendous statement to send to journalists and truth tellers.
“The Department of Justice wants to imprison Assange for crimes allegedly committed outside of the United States. This extraterritorial application of US law is explicit throughout the indictment… thereby classifying any territory in the world as subject to US law,” WikiLeaks wrote in a statement, adding,
In response to the unprecedented espionage charges filed against Julian Assange today, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson declared:
This is the evil of lawlessness in its purest form. With the indictment, the ‘leader of the free world’ dismisses the First Amendment — hailed as a model of press freedom around the world — and launches a blatant extraterritorial assault outside its borders, attacking basic principles of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world.
WikiLeaks went on to write that the indictment carries “serious implications for WikiLeaks publishing partners, numbering over one hundred across the globe, including The New York Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian, who collaborated on the publications and may now face co-dependent charges.”
WikiLeaks concluded: “The final decision on Assange’s extradition rests with the UK Home Secretary, who is now under enormous pressure to protect the rights of the free press in the UK and elsewhere. Press rights advocates have unanimously argued that Assange’s prosecution under the Espionage Act is incompatible with basic democratic principles. This is the gravest attack on press freedoms of the century.”
A little over a month ago, Julian Assange was charged under the CFAA for helping crack a password without a single key stroke in an external computer,
A decision by Japanese government officials to “restrict” questions from an unnamed reporter during press conferences has provoked protests by other journalists.
The controversy has re-raised longstanding questions about the environmental impact of a controversial new base for US Marines being constructed in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa.
At the start of 2019, officials from the Cabinet Office (the government ministry that coordinates the operations of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo) directed the press club covering the Cabinet Office to “restrict” a certain reporter from asking questions during daily press conferences covering the Japanese prime minister. The Cabinet Office also accused the reporter of “spreading misinformation” about the environmental impact of infill.
The unnamed reporter in question is most likely Mochizuki Isoko, a journalist with the Tokyo Shimbun daily newspaper, who is known for asking difficult questions.
In Japan, news outlets typically get access to politicians and government officials through press clubs, which regulate the activities of members, and can even exclude reporters or news outlets. In turn, sources, such as government departments, can deny or limit press clubs with access. But it’s unusual to ban or restrict the activities of journalists from media outlets like Tokyo Shimbun, a prominent daily known for its watchdog approach to government activities.
Reporter questioned environmental effects of construction for US Marine base
Mochizuki apparently angered the Cabinet Office during a news conference on December 26, when she asked about the risks of environmental contamination at a controversial construction site in Okinawa.
In order to build a long-planned base for US Marines permanently stationed in Okinawa, sand and rock infill is being used to build an artificial island in a bay off of Henoko, a township about 65 km north of Naha, Okinawa.
The construction project is destroying and literally paving over existing tropical coral habitat in the bay. It has been reported that the construction project is using inexpensive red soil infill, instead of the gravel that was budgeted in the project and paid for by the government, in an effort to cut corners. There are also suspicions that construction contractors including Ryuku Cement are pocketing the difference.
This news-report is being submitted to all US and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the UN General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.
THE COVERED-UP DOCUMENT
On 3 August 2018, the UN’s General Assembly received the report from the UN’s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.”
He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.”
He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):
22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela.
QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong –
On 08/23 you wrote a blog entry that seems to espouse two incongruous claims: (1) That the press has distorted & propagandized its news reporting so egregiously now that the American people give little credence to what it tells them (as evidenced by the Gallup polls results you showed), and (2) That the press is yet still managing to rope-along enough gullible emotional people that they are dividing the country and will be at fault if it breaks-up. How do you reconcile these two assertions ?: Isn’t it more likely that the press is simply helping to incite those who already left-tending “true believers” as well as the deep state which is the real entity brokering all this enmity against Trump (and the real player with enough clout to foment/incite division of the country in service of its own selfish power & privilege) ?
ANSWER: I do not believe that the press is capable of altering society insofar as changing the minds of the majority. If you look at the presidential elections, only three people EVER won 60%-63% of the popular vote – FDR, LBJ, and Richard Nixon. If you look at the winning votes, you will see that most are in the min 50% range. Less than 10% of the people are independent. The bulk of the people are predisposed Democrats or Republicans. Those who watch CNN do so because they WANT to hear negative things about Trump and those who listen to Fox want to listen to negative things about the Democrats.
The Gallup Poll shows that there is a growing majority of people who are NOT stupid and realize that the press has gone way too far on both sides preaching to their constituents. Hillary raised twice as much money as Trump for the 2016 election. That proved above everything else that you can run all the TV ads bashing your opponent but you are only really preaching to the mindless people who will vote for their party REGARDLESS of the facts.
The press is increasing the violence factor just as Hillary has justified civil unrest. The problem is you will witness an equal and opposite reaction from the extreme right in opposition to the extreme left.
The FAKE NEWS is banning together to try to overthrow Trump and the Republicans this election season. They do not like to be called FAKE NEWS and act as if their “opinion” should dominate the country. Far too many newspapers “endorse” candidates and that is taking a political position rather than being objective reporters of the news. The Boston Globe has been leading a charge to coordinate all the press in the country to target Trump and effectively overthrow the government. So many people from outside the USA are shocked at how Trump is treated by CNN. These people are fake news for they believe that have a right to CREATE the news and SHAPE it to what they want to see. The Boston Globe is biased and actually wrote on October 8th, 2016:
The Boston Globe claims “journalists are not the enemy” but in fact, they are the number one enemy. Free Press is not the right to push only their opinion. They report nothing!!!!! Once upon a time, a “news reporter” was someone who reported the news – they were not engaged in propaganda and manufacturing the news. OPINION has no place in reporting!!!! Edward R. Murrow had integrity. Even I cannot forecast a market based upon OPINION. You have to be objective at ALL times. ABC to news reporter Brian Ross had to resign because of fake news. Now a Harvard study published May 18th, 2017 reveals what many Americans are starting to talk about openly just how corrupt the press has become.
The mainstream press has waged outright war on Trump bombarding the public for the last couple of years with flat-out war propaganda against Trump and then claim innocence. The NY Post has emerged as the only real unbiased newspaper in New York City. It has repeatedly called out “American journalism is collapsing before our eyes.” Indeed, Journalists now come in near the bottom of the poll ranking public respect for professions according to Gallup Polls. Indeed, the NY Post reported the truth that is so obvious to us all that the Media is more interested in hating Trump than reporting news.
America has chosen to go to war on Iran using “fear porn” tactics peddled through British tabloids. The current American war on Turkey has crushed their currency, a war Erdogan says is simply a part of the US backed coup against him that began in 2016. Pakistan under President Imran Khan is next, a strong leader but a fragile economy. The list is a very long one, dozens of nations are “near the top of the list.”
You see, America is fighting globally, fighting against the entire world, or is it really America pulling the strings or something that has gained control of America? Let us examine one aspect of this “sitzkrieg” or “fake war” intended to bring the globe under a New World Order no one has asked for or wants. We begin:
On August 13, 2018, the UK Daily Star, a celebrity tabloid festooned with soft pornography and slanted/fabricated news, ran a very curious story. I received it from a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) who wanted to know “if it is real.” It is not, more than that, it is almost as though the US government, using classically deniable press assets, had confessed to military and intelligence professionals that America’s ability to fight real wars is done.
America is castrated.
The title of the story is Iran Faces Devastating US Secret ‘Shock and Awe” War Plan That Can Be Deployed in Hours. Of course, the first question that comes to mind is “Who still talks like that?”
The author of this piece is “Henry Holloway.” His last piece was “Met Office Issues Weather Warning as UK Faces “INTENSE” Rain and Thunderstorms.” No, I didn’t make that up. It gets better, so much better.
The story begins by reiterating Trump’s “tweet-threat” against Iran in which he promises that Iran will “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before.”
These obviously aren’t Trump’s own words. This sounds more like Boris Johnson, the British fake Churchill currently trying to “back door” his way into Number 10 Downing Street. Let’s get a bit more and note, for reason of lyrical quality alone, that “nobody really talks like this anymore.”
US forces already surround Iran with a ring of military bases across the Middle East and the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf.