Julian Assange has been awarded the 2019 European United Left-Nordic Green Left Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information, WikiLeaks informed Tuesday.
The award is given to individuals “uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public” and to honor “individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted” for such actions. Thus recognizing Assange’s work through WikiLeaks.
The prize is sponsored by European left-wing parliamentarians, who devised it in 2018 in honor of assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Galizia. Nobel Peace prize winner (1976), Mairead Maguire, received it on Assange’s behalf at an event in the European Parliament in France.
Assange is a multi-award winning journalist, with more than 15 international recognitions for his work. The most outstanding awards are the 2008 New Media Award from The Economist, 2010 Time Person of the Year (Reader’s Choice), 2009 Amnesty International UK Media Award, among others. Something his defense has repeatedly explained since by being a publisher and journalist, U.S. imprisonment would mean the violation of fundamental freedom of expression rights.
“The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you in a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on the radio, you running a podcast,” said award-winning journalist John Pilger writing in an op-ed for teleSUR.
On April 11, Assange’s even-year asylum was abruptly removed and then arrested by British police. Immediately the U.S. charged him with “computer hacking conspiracy,” over an allegation he conspired with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break into a classified government computer.
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno even tried to minimize the actions by saying he was “miserable hacker.” Now his defense is fighting an extradition request to face the U.S. justice system, even though Ecuadorean officials have assured this will not happen.
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An affidavit unsealed by US prosecutors on Monday has underscored the unlawful character of the Trump administration’s request that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be extradited to the US in the wake of his illegal expulsion from Ecuador’s London embassy and arrest by the British police last Thursday.
The affidavit was made by Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) special agent Megan Brown on December 21, 2017, in support of two charges which had been secretly filed against Assange, under her name.
The charges accuse Assange of participating in a “conspiracy” with whistleblower Chelsea Manning to gain unauthorised access to a US government computer.
Brown’s document demonstrates that the Trump administration does not have a legal case against Assange that would withstand judicial scrutiny in the US, or in any other country that claims to be a democracy. It brands the US extradition request as a pseudo-legal fig leaf for an extraordinary rendition operation, aimed at silencing a publisher, for his lawful journalistic activities.
The sole “evidence” against Assange is chat logs, in the possession of the US government, which Brown and US prosecutors claim are of online conversations between the WikiLeaks founder and Chelsea Manning.
Brown’s affidavit, and the charge sheet, do not provide any direct evidence that the person Manning was speaking to was Assange.
The “case” against Assange is that Manning, and whoever she was allegedly conversing with in March 2010, discussed cracking a “hash,” or password, that would have allowed her to access US Defence Department material on an account that was not her own.
Manning, as a US army intelligence analyst, had access to the material that she leaked to WikiLeaks. She had already leaked thousands of documents, including the US army’s Afghan and Iraq war logs. The only purpose of accessing the password would have been to help protect her identity.
Brown’s affidavit indicates that the password was never cracked. It quotes Manning, allegedly asking, “any more hints about the IM hash?” The person Manning was conversing with replied: “No luck so far.” Brown then stated:
“There is no other evidence as to what Assange did, if anything, with respect to the password.”
Brown also draws attention to portions of the chat logs, in which Manning and her interlocutor discuss the contents of material she had read and leaked to WikiLeaks.
All of the substantive material in the affidavit has been in the possession of the US authorities since at least 2011, following Manning’s arrest the previous year.
The Obama administration viciously pursued Assange and convened a secret Grand Jury to concoct charges against him. It did not, however, press charges over the alleged conversation logs, in an apparent recognition that such a prosecution would violate the US Constitution’s First Amendment freedom of the press protections.
As one of Assange’s US based lawyers, Barry Pollack, stated this week:
“Encouraging sources to provide information, and using methods to protect their identity, are common practices by all journalists.”
Another of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, noted that the material showed “the kinds of communications journalists have with sources all the time.”
Brown’s affidavit demonstrates that the Trump administration is using the case against Assange to try and prevent journalists from speaking to any sources within the US state apparatus, who wish to disclose evidence of American imperialism’s criminal operations domestically and around the world.
The affidavit declares that WikiLeaks “solicited submissions of classified, censored, or otherwise restricted information,” as though there was something illegitimate about this centuries-long journalistic practice.
It stated that Assange “never possessed a security clearance or need to know” and was “prohibited from receiving classified information of the United States.” This line alone brands the indictment against Assange as a frontal assault on freedom of the press in the US and internationally.
Significantly, Brown’s affidavit condemns Assange for WikiLeaks’ publication of information that they “had reason to believe would cause injury to the United States.”
This is nothing less than a call to establish a legal precedent that journalists must function as de facto agents of the government, including by suppressing truthful information that is in the public interest
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