Here’s what has happened to Julian Assange
In 2012, journalist, publisher and anti-war activist Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain after being granted asylum by the country’s then President Rafael Correa. As a genuine humanitarian and as someone grateful for Assange’s work in exposing how the US sought to undermine Ecuador’s independence, Correa extended his hand to Assange during a time of need.
Prior to entering the Ecuadorian Embassy, Assange risked being imprisoned in Sweden on politicised criminal charges before being extradited to the United Sates where authorities sought his imprisonment. At the same time, many American politicians began openly and even gleefully calling for Assange’s execution due to his publication of military leaks from Chelsea Manning which documented US war crimes. Among the most famous voices calling for Assange’s assassination was failed US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who suggested killing Assange with a military drone. Because of the threats to Assange’s life, liberty and press freedom, Ecuador extended him a lifeline that saw Assange take up residence in the embassy during which time it was thought that has safe and humane transfer to Ecuador would be successfully negotiated.
But rather than respect Assange’s right to asylum, the UK authorities vowed to capture Assange should he step outside of the Embassy in an attempt to travel to Ecuador or another safe country. In 2016, the United Nations ruled that the position of Assange’s tormentors was inhumane and that he was being held in arbitrary detention in the embassy due to the fact that UK authorities would not allow him safe passage to Ecuador. The UN demanded that Assange’s human rights be respected and that he should be compensated for being subject to arbitrary detention.
The UK openly disregarded the United Nations’ ruling and Assange remained a prisoner in a small room at the Embassy. Then in 2017, President Correa was replaced by Lenin Moreno. Unlike Correa, Moreno saw Assange not as a friend but as an annoyance because his stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London had strained relations between Washington and Quito.
Since his election, Moreno has spent his period in office doing all that he can to turn his back on the humanitarian principles of Correa. As such, Moreno worked to make Assange’s life in the embassy as uncomfortable as possible. A year after Moreno took power, an independent medical team determined that Assange’s physical and mental health were both in a severely critical state.
In March of 2018, Ecuador cut off Assange’s only lifeline with the outside world, his internet connection. Around the same time, Ecuador restricted most visitors from calling on Assange in his small, sunless room. Then, on the 11th of April, 2019, Moreno disregarded both the Vienna Convention and the UN’s statements on Assange and invited UK secret police into the embassy where they committed an arrest that is best described as an extrajudicial kidnapping.
Now, Assange stands on the brink of being extradited to the United States where he faces the inevitability of Guantanamo Bay style prison, torture and execution, all because he told the world the truth about the violence, criminality and supreme corruption of major western nations including the US.
Why Assange matters for The Philippines
In The Philippines, yellow “journalist” Maria Ressa likes to complain that her press freedoms are being violated by the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. She continues to exploit this narrative even though the legal troubles she is in stem from corporate/financial malfeasance and the matter of libel against businessman Wilfredo Keng. Ressa’s Rappler outlet has also published incredibly harmful lies about me as part of the character assassination style of tabloid “journalism” for which Rappler is infamous.
But in spite of her multiple legal scandals, Ressa is a free woman who recently returned to The Philippines after a trip to San Francisco, USA. Whilst Ressa has been arrested many times, her wealth and that of her backers has allowed her to post bail and as a result, she continues to walk the streets as a free woman. Likewise, Rappler continues to be an active “news” website in spite of its known flaunting of domestic law.
Whilst Ressa is a magnet for controversy and emblematic of everything wrong with modern “journalism”, Julian Assange and his Wikileaks organisation have a stellar record of 100% accuracy whilst every lawsuit filed against Wikileaks has been won by Wikileaks.
Beyond this, while Ressa’s Rappler is a den of gossip, dark sarcasm, innuendo, elitism and character assassination, Wikileaks has been a beacon of truth in an age of seemingly universal deceit. This is why Filipinos should refuse to be browbeaten into submission by Ressa and her wealthy international supporters. Press freedom is very important and the world’s preeminent victim of extrajudicial censorship, arbitrary detention, kidnapping masquerading as arrest and potentially execution also, is Julian Assange.
Whilst Maria Ressa can travel to the US on her American passport for meetings with her wealthy friends in San Francisco, when Assange is taken to the US it will be for torture and likely execution – all because he told too many truths about the powers that be.