Free Julian Assange: Say No to Shooting the Messenger and Extradition, Say Yes to Supporting Whistleblowers and Press Freedom

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

The following article is based on a prepared statement from Project Censored director Mickey Huff in support of freeing WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange from prison in the UK. This week, Assange awaits an appeal decision on his potential extradition to the US, where he would be tried under the Espionage Act for revealing/publishing leaked documents proving US war crimes, among many other inconvenient truths. His extradition would be a huge blow to journalists, whistleblowers, and the free press, not to mention to Julian as if convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison, likely in isolation. Mickey was invited to speak at the “Free Julian Assange” event at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, CA, October 23. Project Censored cosponsored the weekend events, many of which were held across the US organized by members of the Courage Foundation. Learn more at their site, AssangeDefense.org. 

Thank you all for your work in support of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and press freedom. It is an honor to be included in this weekend’s events. There are few causes that deserve more attention than the case of Julian Assange, for freedom of the press, and the public’s right to know, which is paramount to most all other concerns in purportedly free societies. Project Censored stands with you and with Julian Assange in support of a truly free press, always uncensored, and one that reports in the public interest. 

Project Censored has covered WikiLeaks and Assange from their inception and have followed important whistleblower cases from Chelsea Manning and Thomas Drake to John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden, Reality Winner, and many others. We’ve also honored the intrepid journalists who dared to help tell their stories. These are the truth tellers of our time, and we must stand with them, and in support of what they represent. The Project Censored Show has regularly featured segments on this important matter, as we have for years in our annual books, films, and public talks. 

However, the corporate media have joined in the chorus for Assange’s persecution, prosecution, and even hosted government officials calling for his assassination (which were apparently not bluffs, there were real threats by US agencies to plan to kidnap and kill him). If that’s not bad enough, many alternative media outlets and organizations have failed to give appropriate attention to this crucial issue, sometimes even joining in attacking Assange. As a result, we seriously need to amplify our message of support not only for Assange, but for all those whistleblowers and truth tellers who came before, and we hope will come after.

It is key to remember that the case against Julian Assange is also one against we the people. It is arguably an even more egregious case than the establishment’s despicable campaign to destroy award-winning journalist Gary Webb for his journalism exposing the CIA’s crack cocaine connection in South Central Los Angeles over 20 years ago. Project Censored’s Peter Phillips supported Webb then, and the Project’s publisher, Seven Stories Press, contracted Webb for his book cataloging the saga, Dark Alliance. To this day, despite his career and life being ruined in the process, his claims have not been refuted and stand as part of the historical record. 

Journalism, and history, matter. But as the establishment helped destroy and make an example of Webb, not regardless of but because of his factual reporting, they now seek to do with Assange and anyone in the WikiLeaks orbit. They have accused him of rape, of colluding with Russia on leaked e mails around the 2016 election, but Assange has denied those charges and they have actually been proven false. He has languished in Belmarsh prison in London for the past two years, been tortured, and kept from his family and his work. We cannot allow efforts to punish him to continue and must work to oppose his potential extradition, where a journalist and publisher may be brought up under charges of the Espionage Act (1917) in a country where not only is the accused not a US citizen, but should still be protected under the First Amendment, international law, and the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, which states-

  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

 We need to embrace such an ethos in real, tangible ways now. The Assange case is a free press matter, and all journalistic hands are needed on deck. 

Assange’s alleged crimes are ones against the plutocracy and the hegemonic state, in efforts to keep the public informed of their prevarications and transgressions. His alleged “crimes” involve releasing the truth about the brutality of US imperialism, including collateral murder of reporters and innocent civilians in Iraq, Vault 7 files about CIA global cyber election meddling, and the lengths the corrupt, corporate-run United States government will go to achieve their objectives of global domination. In this regard, Assange is an enemy not of a state that represents we the people, but one that represents the interests of the 1% and fewer– those who control and exploit a majority of global wealth and resources, who wage endless wars for power and profit, leading to societal and global climate collapse. Assange, and whistleblowers exhibiting such civil courage, as Dan Ellsberg has described it, are the antidote to the current crises of mis and disinformation, the light forging a new path for a democratic republic, one based on transparency, facts, and guided by diversity and inclusion as well as peace and justice.

That said, we must remember that shooting the messenger is what the US corporatist military industrial national surveillance complex does by default. They, along with a lapdog, corporate mockingbird press, hagiographically laud serial liars like the late Colin Powell (from My Lai to WMDs) while denigrating those who expose these would-be heroes as the charlatans they have proven themselves to be. Therefore, we must be ever vigilant in supporting true whistleblowers, in protecting independent journalists, and demanding the public’s right to know what our government and their corporate proxies are doing in our names, oft with impunity. We must reign in those powers and hold them accountable. People like Julian Assange have been trying to help us do that for a long time. We must not turn our backs on him, and those like him, now. We must hold this line.

Defend Assange, support a free and independent press, and oppose censorship in its many guises. The truth can set us free, but we must be sure that the rights of those compelled to speak it remain intact in this difficult but necessary journey forward together. 

Mickey Huff is the Director of Project Censored and President of the Media Freedom Foundation; Host and Executive Producer of The Project Censored Show; and Professor of Social Science, History, and Journalism.