Regardless of how anyone feels about Julian Assange or Wikileaks, Assange’s arrest and the plan to extradite him to the US for trial threatens everyone’s freedom everywhere.
His real crime has been to commit journalism—to reveal the dirty secrets of the powerful, especially those of the US elites.
Daniel Ellsberg, who was prosecuted for giving the press the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s, noted that this is “the first indictment of a journalist, editor or publisher, and if it’s successful, it won’t be the last.” He called the case “an attempt to rescind the freedom of the press.”
Freedom of speech in all forms—which is the foundation of any democracy— has been under assault in the US for years. In April, Reporters without Borders ranked the US 48th out of 180 nations in terms of press freedom, down from 20th in 2010. Four states have passed bills restricting the right to protest oil and gas pipeline construction, and at least eight others are considering such laws. The government has threatened musicians regarding their song lyrics. The list goes on. The growing scope of restrictions on Americans’ freedoms goes back at least to the Patriot Act of 2001.
In an era when the people are increasingly forced to challenge corporate control of society just to survive, free speech—including independent journalism—is ever more important. As renowned journalist John Pilger has said, independent journalism is key “because mainstream media doesn’t challenge the powerful except on a trivial level.” Pilger said the Assange case represents “The abandonment of basic democracy, which is based on dissent, on holding the powerful to account.”
Assange must be released, and the phony charges dropped. And we, the people, must do everything we can to support and practice independent journalism and the right to protest. The corporations could gain complete control over our lives. Defending our rights to know the truth and speak out is part of the fight to break the power of the growing corporate dictatorship.