‘The ABC documentary “Hero or Villain”: Undermining the defence of Julian Assange’, James Cogan, 12 August 2019
“A two-part documentary on Julian Assange by the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) “Four Corners” program, which went to air last month, has been rightly condemned by prominent figures in the campaign to defend the persecuted WikiLeaks publisher.
The program was broadcast under conditions in which Assange, an Australian citizen, is imprisoned in Britain and faces trial next February to sanction his extradition to the United States on espionage charges, and the Trump administration has indefinitely re-imprisoned Chelsea Manning, the courageous whistleblower, for refusing to testify against Assange.
The production was an attempt by the ABC to undermine the fight for an independent political movement demanding their immediate freedom.
Filmmaker and journalist John Pilger, a well-known public advocate for Assange, condemned the “Four Corners” documentary as a “smear posing as journalism,” whose “gratuitous abuse, omissions and servitude to the lies of power make a textbook model of modern propaganda.”
Jennifer Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team since 2010, agreed to be interviewed in the documentary. In an interview after its first part had been broadcast, she told ABC Radio National: “That was supposed to be a program about Julian Assange’s prosecution. Instead, it turned into a prosecution of his personality.”
As the comments of Robinson and Pilger indicate, the preoccupation of “Four Corners” was not with the significance of the journalistic exposures published by WikiLeaks, or the democratic rights at stake in the nine-year US-led vendetta against Assange. Rather, the bulk of the program consisted of giving a platform to representatives of organisations that have vilified, slandered and marginalised him.
These included Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian; Scott Shane, national security correspondent for the New York Times; Neera Tanden, a Democratic Party advisor to former US Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; and Clinton herself. It also featured embittered former WikiLeaks employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg, with whom WikiLeaks severed relations in September 2010 and who has since made a media career denouncing his former colleagues.
The statements of such people were used by “Four Corners” to substantiate the pernicious subtext of the entire program: that Julian Assange should be viewed around the world as dubious at best, and criminal at worst, and undeserving of even sympathy, let alone active political support. This position was conveyed in the title of the documentary, “Hero or Villain.”
‘Australian investigative journalist exposes Guardian/New York Times betrayal of Assange’, Oscar Grenfell, 10 August 2019, wsws.org
“At a Sydney “Politics in the Pub” meeting on Thursday night, award-winning Australian journalist Mark Davis revealed new first-hand information exposing the extent of the betrayal of Julian Assange by the Guardian and the New York Times, and refuting the lies both publications have used to smear the WikiLeaks founder.
Davis recounted his experiences documenting Assange’s life in the first half of 2010 for programs screened on the Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Using excerpts from the documentary “Inside WikiLeaks,” the journalist explained that he was present when WikiLeaks worked closely with media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times, in the publication of the Afghan War logs.” [snip]
“Davis said the assertions by Guardian journalists that Assange exhibited a callous attitude towards US informants and others who may have been harmed by the publication of the document were “lies.”
David Leigh and Nick Davies, senior Guardian journalists, who worked closely with Assange in the publication of the logs, have repeatedly claimed that Assange was indifferent to the consequences of the publication.
Their statements have played a key role in the attempts by the corporate media to smear Assange, and dovetail with US government claims that the 2010 publications “aided the enemy.” In reality, the US and Australian militaries have been compelled to admit that release of the Afghan war logs did not result in a single individual coming to physical harm.
Davis explained that he was present in “the bunker,” a room established by the Guardian to prepare the publication of the documents. “Nick Davies made the most recurring, repetitive statement that Julian had a cavalier attitude to life. It’s a complete lie. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was the Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material.”
The Guardian journalists, Davis added, had frequently engaged in “gallows humour,” but that Assange had not.
Significantly, Davis explained that despite the vast technical resources of the Guardian and the New York Times (NYT), it was left to Assange to personally redact the names of informants and other individuals from the war logs, less than three days before scheduled publication. Davis said Assange was compelled to work through an entire night, during which he removed some 10,000 names from the documents.
“Julian wanted to take the names out,” Davis said. “He asked for the releases to be delayed.” The request was rejected by the Guardian, “so Julian was left with the task of cleansing the documents. Julian removed 10,000 names by himself, not the Guardian.”
‘CNN did not learn the lesson from the Manafort hoax; 40 Rebuttals to CNN’s Bias on Assange’, Fidel Narváez, rutakritica.org, probably Aug. 9, 2019 (h/t enouranois & Wikileaks on Twitter
You’ll remember that c99’s SnoopyDawg had brought CNN’s neon-yellow journalism hit piece on Assange earlier. I’d added to this report from my July 29 ‘the UK, Sweden, and US respond to Nils Melzer’s accusations of torture’, (Café version, c99perecent version):
‘Intercept article calls on Democrats to step up attack on Julian Assange’ Oscar Grenfell, 30 July 2019
“The article, authored by James Risen, did not even mention the fact that the Trump administration, with the full support of the Democrats, is seeking to extradite Assange from Britain, so that he can be prosecuted in the US for his role in WikiLeaks’ exposures of war crimes, diplomatic intrigues and mass surveillance.
Instead, it sought to present the WikiLeaks founder as the crucial link in a conspiracy between Trump and the Russian administration of President Vladimir Putin, to deprive Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton of the presidency in the 2016 US election.
The Intercept did not provide any evidence for these assertions, which have been trumpeted by the Democratic Party, the intelligence agencies and the corporate media for the past three years without any substantiation.
Its claims were based almost entirely on a report by CNN earlier this month, which was breathlessly billed as an “exclusive” exposé of Assange. Risen described it as “an explosive story” that “raised important new questions about ties between Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Russia.”
Risen approvingly noted that CNN claimed it “had obtained hundreds of pages of surveillance reports compiled for the Ecuadorian government by a Spanish security company.” In fact, the material, which is apparently being circulated by Ecuadorian and other intelligence agencies in a bid to discredit Assange, constituted a gross and potentially illegal violation of the WikiLeaks founder’s privacy.” [snip]
“In other words, Risen’s article was a third-hand retelling of insinuations, unsubstantiated claims and speculation contained in the Mueller report.
The politically reactionary character of the Intercept article was summed up by its categorical claim that documents published by WikiLeaks in 2016, relating to the Democratic Party, were “hacked by the Russians and released by WikiLeaks.” [snip]
“Risen’s article is not the first to appear in the Intercept attacking Assange.
An article by Robert Mackey in November, 2017 accused the WikiLeaks founder of a “willingness to traffic in false or misleading information,” of “working on behalf of Trump” and of transforming “the WikiLeaks Twitter feed into a vehicle for smearing Clinton.”
A venomous February 2018 article attacking Assange by Micah Lee and Cora Currier similarly sought to slander the WikiLeaks founder as a supporter of the Republicans, while lending credence to the Swedish frame-up against him, over bogus allegations of sexual misconduct.
The authors at the Intercept publishing such filth only demonstrate that they are adjuncts of the Democratic Party and the intelligence agencies. In this, they function as enablers and promoters of the state persecution of Assange, a journalist and publisher who is being targeted by the American government for his exposure of US war crimes.”
What Grenfell’s forgotten, or hadn’t known, is that Glenn Greenwald and Naomi Klein had also hit him hard…at the Intercept. Do you think I care, GG, that the thug Bolsonaro’s threatening to put you in jail? Not on your nellie. (it won’t happen, but still.)
Back to Fidel Narváez’s lengthy epistle:
“Having worked as a diplomat at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for six out of the seven years that Julian Assange lived there as a political refugee, unlike others, I am privy to what actually happened there. I am alarmed by CNN’s June 15th 2019 story, alleging Assange turned the Ecuadorian embassy in London into a command post for election meddling.
The story contains several substantive shortcomings and too many factual errors. I warned CNN about them when I was approached during their “investigation,” but none of my points were included in the article. It is clear that CNN was not looking for balance in their publication, choosing instead to make assertions without showing actual proof, and to use props such as irrelevant CCTV images, a sensationalist collage and a miniature image of unreadable documents to make it seem as though the story was based on evidence.
CNN’s story is based on the wrong premise that publishing information about an election—in this case the 2016 US presidential election—constitutes interference. Nobody refutes the authenticity of the material and nobody claims that the information was not in the public interest.
In fact, New York Times editor Dean Baquet stated that had his newspaper obtained the same material, and regardless of the source or means by which the information had been obtained, the New York Times would have published it. Following CNN’s own logic, all major newsrooms should also be called “election interference centers,” which is how CNN chooses to call the embassy where Julian Assange received political asylum while he was the publisher of WikiLeaks. CNN implies criminality in something that is a legitimate exercise in journalism.
A trend in fake stories
Prior to CNN’s story, the best example of this type of completely unsubstantiated reporting was the Guardian’s front page story “Manafort held secret conversations with Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy”, which was preceded by another libelous article entitled “Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK.” Both of these stories were absolutely false; both were written by the same authors and propped using the same sources: reports written by employees of a private company in charge of security at the Ecuadorian embassy, as well as information provided by anonymous agents of Ecuador’s intelligence services.
Eight months after publishing the Manafort story, neither The Guardian nor anybody else has been able to provide any proof of Manafort visiting what was at the time the most surveilled embassy in the world. Eight months after publishing the Russian secret plan story, my personal complaint to The Guardian for that article is still being judged by the internal complaint’s procedure of the paper.
CNN evidently did not learn from the Guardian’s catastrophic failures and has chosen to use the same unreliable sources for their article. I know —because I was there— that security company UC Global produced exaggerated, misrepresented and hostile reports, loaded with paranoia and sometimes with false information, with the purpose of sowing suspicion about Assange and his visitors in order to justify their own continued employment.
According to CNN, “An Ecuadorian intelligence official told CNN that the surveillance reports are authentic”. Even if we accept the troubling practice of quoting anonymous intelligence officials, is it acceptable from a journalistic point of view to take the word of an anonymous official from the current Ecuadorian government, which is an obvious party with interests in this story, while ignoring the former Ecuadorean Consul who question the logs’ reliability based on specific arguments?
It is in the public domain that the company carried out illegal espionage and leaked confidential information. I know that the company actually forged an official document, falsified the signature of an ambassador, and presented it in a labor court in Spain when facing legal action by one of their employees; a fact that the ambassador himself denounced before the Foreign Ministry.
False and illogical claims
CNN claims, for example, that Assange “was even granted the power to delete names from the visitor logs…” in an attempt to introduce the absurd “…possibility that additional sensitive meetings took place but are still secret.”
It is naive to believe that at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, constantly surveilled by external and internal cameras video cameras, and by undercover police during those seven years, a besieged journalist would have been able to receive secret visitors without the approval of the ambassador, without security personnel knowing about it, without the visit being registered in the visitor’s log, without a copy of the visitors’ IDs being kept on file by the security guards, without being recorded by numerous security cameras, both inside belonging to the embassy, as well as outside belonging to the British secret services, some of which were pointed directly at the only entrance to the embassy.”
The rest, again, is here.
‘Do not forget Julian #Assange. Or you will lose him. I saw him in Belmarsh prison and his health has deteriorated. Treated worse than a murderer, he is isolated, medicated and denied the tools to fight the bogus charges of a US extradition. I now fear for him. Do not forget him.’
(cross-posted at cauus99perent.com)