Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > Assange in the media

Assange in the media

Friday 12 April 2019, by siawi3


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Dark Moment for Press Freedom’: Snowden Leads Global Chorus in Condemning Assange Arrest as Grave Assault on Journalism

“This case has enormous potential ramifications for journalists everywhere.”

Jake Johnson,
staff writer

Placards and messages in support of Julian Assange sit outside Ecuadorian Embassy stands in South Kensington on April 5, 2019 in London, England. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Edward Snowden joined the chorus of advocacy groups, reporters, and critics as the NSA whistleblower described the arrest of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange Thursday morning as a “dark moment for press freedom” that could have grave implications for journalism across the globe.

“Mr. Assange deserves the solidarity of the community of investigative journalists. The world is now watching.”
—Centre for Investigative Journalism

“Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the U.K.’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of—like it or not—award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books,” Snowden tweeted.

Assange’s arrest comes amid concerns that British authorities could be planning to extradite him to the United States.

The U.K. police confirmed that Assange was arrested in part due to “an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States authorities.”

Shortly after Assange’s arrest, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed charges against the WikiLeaks founder, accusing him of a “computer hacking conspiracy.”

“If you’re cheering Assange’s arrest based on a U.S. extradition request, your allies in your celebration are the most extremist elements of the Trump administration, whose primary and explicit goal is to criminalize reporting on classified docs and punish [WikiLeaks] for exposing war crimes,” tweeted The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald.

“All of us in the press should read the charges made against Assange very carefully,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, “as this case has enormous potential ramifications for journalists everywhere.”

Greenwald’s colleague at The Intercept, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, called the arrest “an extremely dangerous crossing of the rubicon” when it comes to press freedoms. “All journalists,” he said, “should stand in fierce opposition.”

As Common Dreams reported last November, the Trump Justice Department accidentally revealed in an unrelated court filing that it has secretly charged Assange.

“Wikileaks material from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere has become a unique, invaluable resource for investigative journalists and scholars around the world,” the U.K.-based Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) said in a statement Thursday.

“Whatever your view of its philosophy of radical transparency, Wikileaks is a publisher,” CIJ added. “Any charges now brought in connection with that material, or any attempt to extradite Mr. Assange to the United States for prosecution under the deeply flawed cudgel of the Espionage Act 1917, is an attack on all of us. Mr. Assange deserves the solidarity of the community of investigative journalists. The world is now watching.”

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, warned in a statement that “prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”

“Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest,” Wizner added.

Journalists were quick to point out that major establishment newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post frequently publish classified information. Prosecuting Assange for doing the same, critics argued, would set an extraordinarily dangerous precedent.

In an editorial just two days ago, the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper made clear that while Assange may have some charges to answer for there is simply no defensible reason for the British government to extradite him to the U.S. to face a sealed indictment over his work as a journalist and publisher:

From first to last, the Assange case is a morally tangled web. He believes in publishing things that should not always be published—this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him. But he has also shone a light on things that should never have been hidden. When he first entered the Ecuadorian embassy he was trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and molestation. That was wrong. But those cases have now been closed. He still faces the English courts for skipping bail. If he leaves the embassy, and is arrested, he should answer for that, perhaps in ways that might result in deportation to his own country, Australia. Nothing about this is easy, least of all Mr. Assange himself. But when the call comes from Washington, it requires a firm and principled no. It would neither be safe nor right for the U.K. to extradite Mr. Assange to Mr Trump’s America.

Assange is reportedly set to appear in court as early as Thursday afternoon, according to WikiLeaks.

As he was being carried to a police van by British authorities Thursday morning, Assange shouted, “Resist this attempt by the Trump administration.”

This article has been updated to include information about the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment against Julian Assange.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

While Much of US Media Plays Along, Critics Warn Assange Indictment an ’Obvious’ Ploy With Deeper Dangers

“This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the U.S.”

Jake Johnson,
staff writer

Jennifer Robinson and Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks address the media outside of Westminster Magistrates Court on April 11, 2019 in London. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for a “computer hacking conspiracy,” a charge some corporate talking heads and reporters immediately touted as evidence that journalism is not under threat.

“Indictment of Assange charges him with hacking, not publishing, a crucial difference for First Amendment concerns,” tweeted David Lauter, Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.

But press freedom advocates, Assange’s attorneys, WikiLeaks staff, and other critics warned that the exact opposite is the case—and argued Assange’s extradition to the U.S. would set a dangerous precedent for journalists everywhere.

“There is no assurance that there would not be additional charges when he is on U.S. soil. And I think that this was an angle in the approach to increase the likelihood of him being extradited. That is obvious.”
—Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief

“This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the U.S.,” Jen Robinson, Assange’s attorney, told reporters during a press conference in London on Thursday.

Speaking alongside Robinson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson argued the Justice Department’s seemingly narrow indictment of Assange for “hacking”—rather than a more sweeping charge for the act of publishing classified information—is an “obvious” ploy to boost the likelihood that the U.K. will extradite him to the United States.

“It is quite obvious the U.S. authorities have picked just one element of what they have been working on for a long time,” Hrafnsson said. “There is no assurance that there would not be additional charges when he is on U.S. soil. And I think, and I believe, that this was an angle in the approach to increase the likelihood of him being extradited. That is obvious.”

British authorities confirmed that Assange was arrested in part due to “an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States authorities.”

The Justice Department alleges in its indictment (pdf) that Assange conspired with U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer network.

The indictment also states that Assange “encouraged Manning to provide information and records” from U.S. agencies, worked to “conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure,” and used an encrypted chat service to “collaborate” on the release of classified information related to Guantanamo Bay as well as U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The United States should finally seek to come to terms with the war crimes in Iraq that it has committed rather than attack and imprison those who sought to expose the truth of it.”
—Center for Constitutional Rights

In a statement, Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, noted that while the Justice Department “has so far not attempted to explicitly declare the act of publishing illegal, a core part of its argument would criminalize many common journalist-source interactions that reporters rely on all the time.”

“Requesting more documents from a source, using an encrypted chat messenger, or trying to keep a source’s identity anonymous are not crimes; they are vital to the journalistic process,” added Timm. “Whether or not you like Assange, the charge against him are a serious press freedom threat and should be vigorously protested by all those who care about the First Amendment.”

The Intercept’s Micah Lee—an Assange critic—echoed Timm’s warning:

Despite these ominous warnings from press freedom advocates, many reporters and cable news pundits continued to loudly parrot the Trump Justice Department’s line, claiming the indictment is not a threat to journalism.

“The indictment makes it clear that this has nothing to do with the publishing of materials,” tweeted NBC News journalist Tom Winter.

Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, was quick to push back.

“I’m not surprised to see NBC journalists uniting behind Trump DOJ to justify the criminalization of WikiLeaks—NBC is fully aligned with the CIA/NSA long obsessed with destroying [WikiLeaks]—but this tweet is false: the indictment also charges Assange with encouraging his source,” Greenwald tweeted.

In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) decried Assange’s arrest and possible extradition to the U.S.“a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ’fake news.’”

“The arrest sets a dangerous precedent that could extend to other media organizations such as the New York Times, particularly under a vindictive and reckless administration,” CCR said. “The United States should finally seek to come to terms with the war crimes in Iraq that it has committed rather than attack and imprison those who sought to expose the truth of it.”

In a column late Thursday for the Washington Post, veteran journalist and editor Margaret Sullivan warned her industry colleagues against ignoring the principles this case calls into question.

“Before we turn our backs on Assange,” Sullivan wrote, “we ought to think deeply about what’s at stake.”

While “casting him to the wolves as nothing but a narcissistic, bad actor—’not like us,’ of course—may seem tempting,” she added, the consequences could be dire.

“The gray area here is bigger than it looks,” she concluded, “and so are the dangers to traditional journalism and the public interest.”

And HuffPost journalist Ashley Feinberg put it this way: “Assange is a piece of shit which is exactly why this is the perfect case for [the U.S. government] to set a very dangerous precedent with.”



UN experts on Assange’s case

Feb 11, 2019

Note: Independent UN rights experts on Thursday said the arrest of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange by police in the United Kingdom after the Ecuadorian Government decided to stop granting him asylum in their London embassy, exposed him to “the risk of serious human rights violations†if extradited to the United States.

These views are consistent with a series of actions and statements by the UN which has sided with Assange throughout this threat of prosecution and his nearly seven years as a refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Agnes Callamard, said “expelling Assange from the Embassy†and allowing his arrest, it had taken Mr. Assange “one step closer to extradition.†She added that the UK had now arbitrarily-detained the controversial anti-secrecy journalist and campaigner, “possibly endangering his life.â€

The UN independent expert on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, issued a statement following the arrest, saying that “this will not stop my efforts to assess Mr. Assange’s claims that his privacy has been violated. All it means is that, instead of visiting Mr Assange and speaking to him at the Embassy…I intend to visit him and speak to him wherever he may be detained.â€

In a statement last Friday, Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, said he was alarmed by reports that an arrest was imminent, and that if extradited, Mr. Assange could be exposed to “a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.â€

Last December, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, urged the UK to “abide by its international obligations†and allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the embassy. The Working Group concluded in its opinion No. 54/2015 that Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and demanded that he be released. “Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instanices. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge†KZ


Defending Rights And Dissent On Julian Assange Indictment

By Chip Gibbons

April 11, 2019

The Indictment of Assange Criminalizes Journalism

Earlier this morning, London police entered the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested Julian Assange. This was in response to a US extradition request. Assange is expected to be extradited and stand trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Press freedom, civil liberties, and human rights groups have long opposed the extradition of Assange to the US. They have warned prosecuting Assange for publishing information would be a terrible precedent. This would be especially true if charges were brought under the Espionage Act. While the Espionage Act has been increasingly used against those who leak classified information to the media it has never been used against the publisher of information.

The indictment unsealed this morning was not brought under the Espionage Age. Assange is charged with conspiring with whistleblower Chelsea Manning to commit “computer intrusion.†The indictment alleges that Assange tried, but failed, to help crack a password on a Department of Defense computer.

The nature of the charge does not mean, as some have falsely claimed, that there are no compelling press freedom issues at stake. Charging a journalist for conspiring with a source raises extremely important press issues. The indictment includes in its detailing of the “conspiracy†practices that are arguably standard source cultivation engaged in by journalists. Part of the conspiracy alleged is that Assange was attempting to conceal the identity of his source. The computer hacking allegations could very well be a backdoor way to criminalize journalism.

There is also no reason to take Donald Trump’s Department of Justice at face value. The indictment pertains exclusively to the publishing of information about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Bay prison, and the State Department. These were disclosures of great journalistic value that revealed US governmental misconduct. Since WikiLeaks made this information public, the US government has been out to get Assange.

Whatever the formal charge may be, this is a retaliatory effort that endangers press freedom.

This statement may be attributed to either Defending Rights & Dissent or Chip Gibbons, Policy & Legislative Counsel, Defending Rights & Dissent.



In Court, Assange Flashes Thumbs Up, Faces Extradition To US

By Andy Wells,
Yahoo News

April 11, 2019

Photo: Assange shows a victory symbol from the police van after his arrest at Ecuadorian embassy on April 11, 2019.

Note: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London on computer hacking charges filed by US officials, stemming from the organizations’ release of classified government cables from former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. In an indictment unsealed just hours after Assange’s arrest in London, the US accused him of assisting Manning in “hacking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers.†Assange’s anti-secrecy publication, Wikileaks, published the cables starting in 2010. At the hearing on April 11, the judge found Assange guilty of failing to surrender and scheduled a court appearance for May 2 on the U.S. extradition request. The judge sent Assange to the Crown Court for sentencing as the bail violation offense because he said it was so serious.

US prosecutors later unsealed their indictment against Assange, saying that he was wanted “in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.â€

According to the Department of Justice “The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers.

“During the conspiracy, Manning and Assange engaged in real-time discussions regarding Manning’s transmission of classified records to Assange. The discussions also reflect Assange actively encouraging Manning to provide more information. During an exchange, Manning told Assange that ‘after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.’ To which Assange replied, ‘curious eyes never run dry in my experience.’“

[( After reading the indictment, I can see why the government was trying to get Manning to testify against Assange. The indictment has serious gaps on the central issue, i.e. how Assange actually assisted Manning. Even the indictment fails to provide any information on that critical issue. KZ)]

Julian Assange has appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after being arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy this morning.

The WikiLeaks founder pleaded not guilty to a charge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that he failed to surrender to custody as required for an extradition order to Sweden.

Assange will not give evidence but his lawyer Jennifer Robinson will argue he had a “reasonable excuse†for not surrendering to custody.

Assange has been further arrested over an alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning “to break a password to a classified US government computer†, the US Department of Justice said.

In a statement, the department said: “Julian P. Assange, 47, the founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested today in the United Kingdom pursuant to the U.S./UK Extradition Treaty, in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.â€

Photo: Assange gives thumbs up from police van after his arrest on April 11, 2019.

The Justice Department said if found guilty, Assange could face five years in prison.

The basis of Assange’s defense of “reasonable excuse†is that he could never expect a fair trial in the UK as its purpose was to “secure his delivery†to the US.

A packed public gallery and a full press bench watched as he walked into court wearing a black suit and polo shirt.

With grey hair tied into a ponytail and long beard, Assange saluted the public gallery before giving a thumbs up.

Members of the public were warned they would be in contempt of court if they recorded proceedings.

VIDEO here : WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested on April 11, 2019.

Officers were invited into the Ecuadorian embassy this morning where Assange has been holed up since 2012 after he failed to surrender to court.

Assange was shouting and gesticulating as he was carried out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in handcuffs by seven men and put into a waiting Met Police van, video footage showed.

A witness said: “He was screaming. He was struggling, I think he felt a bit weak. He was surrounded by police.â€