By Justina Poskeviciute
A publisher locked up for exposing war crimes of the empire — and all done in our name.
This is what has been happening to Julian Assange for the last ten years.
It is something huge, criminal, and extremely concerning. If you’re not following it or aren’t concerned about it, you should be.
The timeline of Julian’s case is a long one. You can in fact see it here, on the website of the International Federation of Journalists. There, you can see how his trial has been a sequence of politically motivated accusations, attempts to protect him, and betrayals.
Yet what surrounds his trial are narratives constructed to make the public skeptical. To make us doubt. To make us unsure if we want to stand by someone like Assange.
Yes, he might have exposed various crimes by the powerful – like the impunity under which Western powers murder civilians in their wars – but, the powerful now tell us, he is a hacker. He is not a journalist. This is not how journalists operate. Also, we shouldn’t like his personality.
These statements and entire smear campaigns that they make up are two things.
One, they are decoys. They are meant to distract us from what this case is really about. Someone’s background or perceived “likeability” are not factors when a publisher is being jailed. Two, they are full of hypocrisy. Leaking classified documents and exposing the crimes of the powerful is exactly what journalism is supposed to be about. Questioning the power structures instead of blindly reporting on what they are saying as fact is what good journalism is. And when major publishers do it, we praise them. When Wikileaks do it, we start questioning why it’s done.
Our questioning is manufactured. Our indifference is desired.
What it allows is a continuation of this criminal and inhumane trial of Julian and something even worse: his potential extradition to the US where he is facing espionage charges that could amount to 175 years in prison.
Already two years ago, The Lancet, the world’s oldest medical journal, published a text entitled The Ongoing Torture and Medical Neglect of Julian Assange.
In it, they wrote:
"On Feb 17, 2020, Doctors for Assange demanded an end to the torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange. Yet no responsible authority has acted.
Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and two medical experts visited Mr Assange in prison in May, 2019, concluding that his treatment constituted psychological torture, a form of torture aimed at destroying the personality of an individual.
The situation has deteriorated since then."
You can in fact hear from Nils Melzer himself here, in his interview for Al Jazeera.
As Julian is kept in torture-like conditions, you can already guess if any US politicians, soldiers, or high-rank military officials have been prosecuted for the crimes that Wikileaks has exposed.
We understand that, within the current system, it’s much more dangerous to expose crimes than to commit them.
This is what the case of Julian Assange reminds us.
And this is what we need to change.
If our “liberal democracies” manage to silence a loud and known voice of fearless journalism, what chance will other voices have?
Therefore, we arrive at the very beginning: if we’re not concerned for Julian Assange, we’re not concerned for press freedom.
This all leaves us with one question: so what can we do?
Please see a list of actions below, from petitions and sending letters to US embassies to actual in-person events, here:
Don’t Extradite Assange, including forming a human chain around the UK Parliament this October
International Federation of Journalists
Justina Poskeviciute is CODEPINK’S Engagement Manager and a freelance political commentator. You can also find her on Twitter and Spotify.