D H
Sep 9 · Last update 12 days ago.

Is journalism on trial with Julian Assange?

The extradition trial of Julian Assange continued in London in September 2020, following a six-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Assange formally refusing the US’ extradition request on Monday 7th September. The indictment Assange faces involves conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for the leaks Chelsea Manning provided to Wikileaks in 2010. While this carried a maximum sentence of five years, a US grand jury has since added 17 charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and computer misuse charges that carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. The controversy surrounding Assange is essentially based upon the question of whether or not he is functioning as a journalist, and therefore entitled to protection under the first amendment of the US constitution that protects freedom of the press. However what constitutes 'the press' in the era of the internet and social media remains, at least legally, quite unclear. So, is Julian Assange a journalist? If so does the profession stand to be irreversibly changed with the prosecution of Assange under the US espionage act? Is journalism on trial with Julian Assange?
Stats of Viewpoints
Yes
0 agrees
0 disagrees
No, he’s not a Journalist
0 agrees
0 disagrees
Viewpoints
Add New Viewpoint

Yes

According to the mother of his children Julian Assange is in a fight for his life, and it should be widely understood that international freedom of the press is in a similar situation with him. Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current or past events, and is protected under American, British and Australian law (Assange is an Australian national), however all these countries have done their best to paint Assange as a hacker, or to distance themselves from the issue. Assange's lawyers are arguing in his defence that he should be protected under the First Amendment of the US constitution, but also against extradition, claiming that Assange will not receive a fair trial in the US "because of an effective declaration of war on leakers and journalists” [1].

Despite Assange publishing evidence on past events as many other journalists have, much of this is seen as embarrassing to the US, such as the video of the 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists. As a result the US extradition seems more of a witch-hunt, with Amnesty International describing it as "a negative public campaign by US officials at the highest levels" [1]. This whole trial seems increasingly ridiculous when you consider not only the clear journalistic practice of Wikileaks, but also the fact that Chelsea Manning was already pardoned by Obama for her involvement in the same series of leaks Assange is being targeted for. This is increasingly shocking considering Manning's re-arrest, torture, and fining of $256,000, for refusing to testify against Julian Assange in a grand jury investigation in 2019-20.

One of the counts that Assange stands accused of is simply seeing the information that Manning had to leak, if Assange is actually prosecuted for this then any number of journalists in the field could be technically felons. This could set a precedent that it would be up to the US government which journalists they wanted to prosecute and those that they didn't, across the globe. In this way Assange is just a high profile worst offender, if the US can get away with charging Assange under the Espionage act for online journalistic practices in another country, any journalist that publishes anything the US doesn't like could become a target of this new move towards journalistic illiberalism. On the most foundational level Assange is on trial for publishing factual information, publishing the truth, US war crimes, in the public interest, if using hacked material is off limits for journalists then we need to wave goodbye to international investigative journalism.

[1] nypost.com/2020/09/07/julian-assange-fights-extradition-to-us-to-face-espionage-trial counterpunch.org/2020/09/07/the-stalinist-trial-of-julian-assange edition.cnn.com/2020/03/12/politics/chelsea-manning-suicide-attempt-virginia-jail/index.html

Agree
Disagree
Latest conversation
D H
Sep 15
Approved
DH edited this paragraph
One of the counts that Assange stands accused of is simply seeing the information that Manning had to leak, if Assange is actually prosecuted for this then any number of journalists in the field could be technically felons. This could set a precedent that it would be up to the US government which journalists they wanted to prosecute and those that they didn't, across the globe. In this way Assange is just a high profile worst offender, if the US can get away with charging Assange under the Espionage act for online journalistic practices in another country, any journalist that publishes anything the US doesn't like could become a target of this new move towards journalistic illiberalism. On the most foundational level Assange is on trial for publishing factual information, publishing the truth, US war crimes, in the public interest, if using hacked material is off limits for journalists then we need to wave goodbye to international investigative journalism.

No, he’s not a Journalist

Julian Assange is not a journalist, he doesn't break news stories in a traditional way and Wikileaks is a dangerous platform that lacks oversight. American prosecutors have previously claimed that Assange’s document dumps on Wikileaks have endangered the lives of informants, and in the new indictment they are accusing Assange of conspiring with members of hacking organisations and seeking to recruiting hackers to obtain classified information. CNN has reported that Assange used documents hacked by Russian intelligence to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential election, likewise the Washington Post printed that Assange "appeared to be a tool of Russian meddling to support Donald Trump" [1]. Furthermore the latter news organisation have stated that the US Justice Department have crafted the indictment so carefully that it is now a simple issue of the theft of state secrets, not their publication, making this simply a trial of Assange and not journalism.

[1] washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-julian-assange-a-journalist-or-is-he-just-an-accused-thief/2019/04/11/38afac3c-5c9c-11e9-9625-01d48d50ef75_story.html edition.cnn.com/2019/07/15/politics/assange-embassy-exclusive-documents/index.html

Agree
Disagree
Latest conversation
D H
Sep 15
Created
Translate