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Hanzala Aman

Arrest of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange Threatens The Journalism Around The World

Julian Assange

“Progressives” who should have been defending Assange, have sadly been rejoicing for he could soon be tried in the US courts.

 

On April 11th, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by London Police after being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had been hiding for the last 7 years. This came almost a month after Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for refusing to talk to “Secret Jury” on which she had doubts of secrecy, “I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,”. Manning’s arrest was dubbed as the unconstitutional by the critics as well as herself and her attorney since she had already gone through trial before and served the sentence. Both Manning and Assange had been a thorn in the eyes of the US regimes. Manning had accessed the secret documents about the US Army’s war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, illegal detentions and relentless abuse as well as US government’s complicity in siding with repressive Arab regimes. Since she was in the military (then as Bradley Manning), she was court marshalled and given a sentence of 35 years, which was then reduced by President Barack Obama to 7 years. These documents were published by Julian Assange on his infamous Wikileaks. These cables shook the world and brought the US regime and its military under scrutiny for its war crimes. Since, then he is wanted by the courts for his possible collusion with Manning in a failed hacking of the Department of Defense’s website, which Manning had denied in her testimony.
Having been arrested by the London Police, Assange faces the extradition to the United States. There have been loud cheering from both Democrats and Republicans about his arrest. “Progressives” who should have been defending Assange, have sadly been rejoicing for he could soon be tried in the US courts. While Republicans have long maintained conservative position, Democrats have been pissed off with him for leaking Hillary Clinton’s emails. These leaked emails had supposedly impacted the Hillary campaign and she ultimately lost the Presidential race to Donald Trump. What’s troubling is Bernie Sander’s silence on both Manning and Assange, since Bernie has long been the face of Progressive Democrats and can very well be the biggest contender for the Presidency in 2020. Almost all 2020 candidates except Mike Gravel and Tulsi Gabbard have maintained silence. Tulsi has duly noted “The arrest of #JulianAssange is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price.”

Assange’s arrest raises quite many questions. Firstly it threatens press freedom worldwide specifically of the Independent media such as HW News. By Manning’s own testimony Assange had not assisted her in gaining these secret documents, rather had only published them which is protected by the First Amendment. His arrest comes as a witch-hunting of the dissenters who are risking their lives to expose the ugliest sides of the United States, who has repeatedly projected itself as a defender of Human rights and Democracy.
It also exposes the bullying power of the United States. In September last year, National Security Adviser John Bolton (also instrumental in current Venezuelan Crisis) had threatened International Criminal Court with sanctions if it continued with the investigation of US involvement in War Crimes in Afghanistan. Last Friday, ICC rejected the plea of investigation relating to it. Again, on March 11th 2019, a month before Assange’s expulsion from Ecuadorian embassy (and then arrest), IMF had approved US$ 4.2 billion fund to Ecuador. Critics have claimed that there’s a clear connection in between these two events. Mike Gravel’s claim “With the arrest and possible extradition of Julian Assange, the United States comes ever-closer to an authoritarian police state. Assange must be pardoned immediately. Anything else is unacceptable” seems justified. Additionally, the Australian government has also remained silent on issues relating to Julian Assange, despite the fact that he is an Australian citizen. Technically, the Australian government should at least have been a litigant in the case. Further, being an Australian citizen who was hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy for exposing crimes of US Army, and then being arrested by UK police shows a global nexus of the “free world” against freedom. When Assange was presented before Westminster Magistrates Court, a clearly prejudiced judge labelled him a “narcissist, who can’t get beyond his own selfish interests”, displaying a case of Presumption of Guilt.
In Assange’s case, press freedom is clearly threatened as it could lead to other despotic regimes such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and others doing the same with journalists or investigators from foreign countries. The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy is still fresh in the memory. Further, India has also scored very poor in the latest Press Freedom Index.
Chelsea Manning has said that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder strengthens claim she is a victim of judicial abuse. Further, her team has released a statement, “The indictment against Julian Assange unsealed today was obtained a year to the day before Chelsea appeared before the grand jury and refused to give testimony. The fact that this indictment has existed for over a year underscores what Chelsea’s legal team and Chelsea herself have been saying since she was first issued a subpoena to appear in front of a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia — that compelling Chelsea to testify would have been duplicative of evidence already in the possession of the grand jury, and was not needed in order for US Attorneys to obtain an indictment of Mr Assange.  Grand Juries may not be used for the sole and dominant purpose of preparing for trial, including questioning potential trial witnesses. Since her testimony can no longer contribute to a grand jury investigation, Chelsea’s ongoing detention can no longer be seriously alleged to constitute an attempt to coerce her testimony. As continued detention would be purely punitive, we demand Chelsea be released.”
According to a report, US regimes under Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama invaded and destroyed 9 countries and killed almost 12.5 million citizens. Their policies and assistance gave birth to hundreds of terror groups. This makes the independent media responsible to push for the investigation in the War Crimes. And, when it comes to Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, both liberal and conservative media should make a principled stance against their arrests. What is at stake is something big – it is a seven lettered word. FREEDOM.

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