Stefania Maurizi on How Julian Assange Changed Journalism

The Italian journalist and longtime media partner of WikiLeaks speaks with Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico about the implications of Assange’s struggle against U.S. extradition. 

By Dennis J Bernstein and Randy Credico
KPFA Flashpoints 

Julian Assange was back in court twice last week, and will return to a high British court next month for the major legal battle of his life. It will determine whether the U.S. is allowed to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher to the U.S. for prosecution.

In the first of a series of extradition hearings on May 2, Assange appeared in court via video screen. He seemed composed and focused and ready to fight. He told the British High Court: “I do not wish to surrender for extradition. I’m a journalist winning many, many awards and protecting many people.” The next procedural hearing is scheduled for May 30 and another substantive hearing for early June.

Stefania Maurizi

Stefania Maurizi  is an investigative journalist for the Italian daily la Repubblica  and the author of two books; “Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani” and “Una Bomba, Dieci Storie.” She has for years worked closely with Assange on some of the most significant WikiLeaks releases including “Collateral Murder.” Maurizi also worked closely with Glenn Greenwald on the files about Italy of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on National Security Agency surveillance. 

On May 2, right after Assange’s high court appearance, Maurizi told us that she fears for the health and welfare of Assange. She said she also fears for what it might mean to other journalists and whistleblowers if Assange is convicted in a U.S. court for his crucial work with whistleblowers, which has been used widely by news organizations.    

Dennis Bernstein: Stefania Maurizi, I’d like you to start by giving us your gut reaction to what we have seen so far in terms of the treatment of Julian in recent days.

Stefania MauriziFor me it has been really shocking to witness how Julian Assange has declined in the last nine years.  I have been able to see changes in Julian’s health and psychology.  It was so sad, and no one could do anything. I could report on it and expose it but the other media and public opinion did absolutely nothing to make the government understand how terrible his treatment was.  And all this is happening not in Russia, not in North Korea, this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe.  I now realize how little we can do in our democracy.  If you look at what has happened to high-profile whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and an important publisher like Assange, who had the courage to publish these important revelations, what did your democracy do to save them, to treat them in a human way? Chelsea Manning was put in prison for seven years, where she tried to commit suicide twice.  Now she is back in prison.  Edward Snowden was forced to leave the U.S.  Julian Assange has spent nine years in detainment and no one did anything.  We were reporting, we were denouncing, we were exposing how seriously his health was declining.  Nothing happened.

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Dennis Bernstein:  You’ve worked very closely with Julian Assange in Italy.  You were in a sense a co-publisher in getting out crucial documentation.  Could you talk about why you consider Assange not only a publisher, but one of the most important publishers of our time?

Assange and WikiLeaks won The Economist New Media Award at the 2008 Freedom of Expression Awards. (Index on Censorship)

Stefania MauriziI started working with WikiLeaks in 2009 when very few people knew about them.  They hadn’t yet published important documents like “Collateral Murder” or the “War Logs.”  I immediately saw that they were going to start a revolution. And that is what has happened: They have changed journalism. Their model of journalism spread and we see now leaks everywhere.  We see this model of collaborative media partnership used by many media, like the Panama Papers Consortium. In addition, you have to realize the importance of what they have revealed.  They have revealed the true face of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have revealed the inner working of U.S. diplomacy, for example, how they put pressure on Italian prosecutors who were trying to convict 23 Americans, almost all CIA agents, responsible for the extraordinary renditions here in Italy. Or they published revelations of how the U.S. forced the Italian government to purchase a Lockheed jet fighter.  This information is now available to everyone.  You can see how The Washington Post used emails to investigate the [Jamal] Khashoggi murder and they were able to do so because they had the courage to publish these files. Even in the case of the Panama Papers, only the journalists inside the partnership can access the original files.  WikiLeaks made these files fully accessible to everyone, so that every journalist, ever activist, every scholar, every citizen can be empowered by this information free of charge.  That is the revolution.

Dennis Bernstein:  Chelsea Manning is now in jail, refusing to cooperate with the grand jury.  This is someone who spent so much time in solitary confinement. One of the key collaborations had to do with the activities of the U.S. government in Central America, destabilizing, undermining governments.  Now they say they never get involved.  If you look at the documentation in the context of the current attempt by [U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela] Elliot Abrams to destabilize Venezuela, here comes WikiLeaks again.

Stefania MauriziAbsolutely.  Whenever we have a scandal, we can go to the WikiLeaks website and search for any pertinent information.  The information they publish continues to inform the public. They are now paying a huge price. I myself feel guilty because I was able throughout the past 10 years to work on all these documents, to verify them and publish them without any risk.  Julian and WikiLeaks are paying a huge price and all the editors are silent.  People accuse me of acting as an activist.  I am not acting as an activist, I am speaking out because I feel uncomfortable when I see how professional journalists have all sorts of protection and are not facing imprisonment or extradition.

Randy Credico: The last time I saw you was in December of 2017.  I had seen Julian three months earlier and his health had declined noticeably in those few months.  Now that he is in jail, is he able to see doctors?  What is his physical health like at this point?

Stefania MauriziI am not sure whether he is able to see visitors.  It is a very strict regime, there are very strict rules for suspected terrorists.  He spends most of his time completely alone.  This comes after spending the last seven years at the embassy almost entirely alone, apart from occasional visits.  So you can imagine how his forced isolation is affecting his health.

(FNPI via Flickr)

Randy Credico: I look at the sentence that judge Deborah Taylor handed down: a year in jail for allegedly skipping bail.  Can you go into the bogus charges that were never filed against Julian, and how they were perpetuated with the assistance of the Crown Prosecution Service?

Stefania MaurizioThree years had passed since the Swedish case was closed.  No journalistic organization had ever tried to access these documents.  Thousands of journalists had covered the case but no one had the facts clear.  At that point I realized that it was important from a journalistic point of view to try to access the documentation.  These documents allow us to establish important facts, such as that it was the U.K. that advised the Swedish prosecutors against questioning Assange in London.  The whole case began with this refusal by the Swedish prosecutor.  Now we know that behind this decision there was the Crown Prosecution Service.  Let’s not forget that this agency is the very same agency which is in charge of deciding whether to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. now. The Crown Prosecution Service entered the case at the very beginning and they advised the Swedish prosecutor against questioning Assange in London.  Julian Assange never refused to be questioned, he refused to be extradited because he was convinced that the extradition to Sweden could pave the way for his extradition to the U.S. 

Now we see that he was right. 

And it was the Crown Prosecution Service which advised the Swedish prosecutor against dropping the case in 2013.  At that time the Swedish prosecutor considered to drop the case but the Crown Prosecution Service was against this possibility.

Finally, it was the Crown Prosecution Service who destroyed crucial emails about the case, even though the case is still ongoing.  I am still fighting in the U.K. tribunal because I want to access these documents and fill in the gaps.  Now the Swedish prosecutor is evaluating whether to open this case once again.  The statute of limitations is in August 2020.  There is a massive campaign about Julian being a rapist.  After one or two years of this campaign, who will care about Julian Assange being extradited to the U.S.?  That is a possible scenario.

Dennis Bernstein:  Again, Julian had his first hearing today [May 2, 2019] regarding extradition to the United States.  He looked okay but he is definitely in danger. Stefania, what responsibility do we have as journalists to stand up?  According to Daniel Ellsberg, if they go after Julian and Chelsea the way they want to in the United States, it is the end of journalism.

Stefania MauriziAbsolutely.  This case is about whether the press is allowed to publish documents like the video “Collateral Murder,” which records war crimes and whether the press is allowed to publish documents about the NSA spying on world leaders, whether the press is allowed to publish documents on Guantanamo Bay.  We saw what happened after 9/11: habeas corpus came to an end with Guantanamo, the Fourth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] was trampled by the NSA.  Now they want to destroy the First Amendment and they will do it using Julian Assange. They will not go after The New York Times or The Washington Post.

Dennis Bernstein:  Wouldn’t you say that part of the genius of WikiLeaks was the ability to guarantee anonymity?  The reason why Assange has been successful and all these major journalistic organizations were willing to work with him is because of this process he created to guarantee anonymity.

Stefania Maurizi: Julian Assange understands technology and he understands the nature of power.  Most geeks know very little about power, about empire.  Thanks to his knowledge in the technology field, we have this platform. But let’s not forget that WikiLeaks is in trouble now not because they have this platform, but because they have the courage to publish.  It is not enough to get the documents.  Most newsrooms hide such documents.  One of the journalists at The Washington Post had the video “Collateral Murder” and he didn’t publish it.  WikiLeaks did.  It is not enough to have the platform: you have to have the integrity and the courage to publish.  The New York Times didn’t publish the important story that the NSA was intercepting the communications of U.S. citizens for more than a year.   For years The New York Times didn’t want to use the word “torture,” preferring instead “enhanced interrogation.”  The reason the U.S. authorities are hostile toward WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is because they publish what the U.S. media and many other media don’t want to publish.

Dennis Bernstein: Would you like to do a shout-out from one courageous woman there in Italy to a woman who became a woman in solitary confinement and was arrested again on International Women’s Day?

Stefania Maurizi: I feel a huge debt of gratitude because I have worked on Chelsea Manning’s documents for years.  I supported her defense fund, I wrote to her in prison.  I have tried to explain to my readers why she is tremendously courageous. I really would like to see her go free because I cannot accept that one of the most important journalistic sources of all time is again in prison.

Dennis Bernstein: Both Randy and I are extremely grateful for your work, Stefania Maurizi, investigative journalist for la Repubblica and author of “Dossier WikiLeaks,”  which describes the power of a courageous publisher like Julian Assange, who has worked with extraordinary sources to get information out which we would otherwise never have heard.

Listen to the interview on KPFA.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.” You can access the audio archives at Flashpoint.  You can get in touch with the author at [email protected].

Randy Credico is an American perennial political candidate, comedian, radio host, activist and the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.

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23 comments for “Stefania Maurizi on How Julian Assange Changed Journalism

  1. alan Dransfield
    May 18, 2019 at 02:32

    Hi Stefani
    I am a UK Whistleblower and I am the UK court precedent on Vexatious Precedent via the uk Information Commission. My case was also used by the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS ) to on Julian Assange . I can send you a copy of the ICO decision which clearly shows the Dransfield Vexatious decision to GAG Joe Public related to Julan Assange

  2. Steve
    May 11, 2019 at 07:22

    Have courage in what you are doing, the people worldwide are listening and are awakening to the people and their corrupt governments also their cover ups, not a few but millions of people have been informed.

  3. May 9, 2019 at 18:14

    Let’s not forget that the ‘crown’ is linked to Joseph Mifsud and MI6 and is looking more and more like the origin of the RUSSIAGATE conspiracy as well. They are incoherent empire.

  4. evelync
    May 9, 2019 at 18:14

    I cant’ figure out if the intelligence community is scared of the people they supposedly serve in this country, namely all of us. Scared that we learn the truth about wrongdoing done in our name…. Or if the intelligence community buys into a narrative that is spun by the wealthy and powerful who benefit from what Ray McGovern calls the MICIMATT (with accent on the first syllable): the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex.

    This country is brainwashed and the “elite institutions” e.g. Harvard JFK School of Government whose academics are terrorized by the very enemies who have been created by our foreign policies. How dumb can they be? I one speaks up to defend Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange for exposing wrongdoing, they come back at that person with the hysterical faux mantra “national security…national security” when in truth, if we stopped these counterproductive regime change wars and left those people alone in other countries and didn’t misuse/abuse the people who serve in our military, we would all be safer and there’d be funds available to do what needs to be done at home, including the work to address the challenges of climate change.
    They lie to themselves and to the rest of us. And our courageous journalists/whistleblowers/truthtellers are punished for doing the right thing by informing the public of wrongdoing done with our tax dollars and in our name.

    Julian said something brilliant in one interview – he said if lies can take us to wars, then maybe the truth can save us from destroying ourselves. TPTB don’t want to hear about that – too busy making a mess and lining their pockets.

    Thank you Stefania Maurizi!
    Honest and courageous!

  5. AH
    May 9, 2019 at 14:07

    People forget that it is the British crown who run the courts in the UK. It is all conducted by “her Majesty’s pleasure” as they are so fond of saying. Wikileaks exposed the fact that the Queen, despite her extraordinary wealth courtesy of the taxpayer, was investing her money in loan sharks who prey upon the weakest and the absolute poorest people in Britain. She used the excuse that she’s unaware of her investments, yet if anyone tried the same excuse in her own courts they would be locked up. Now, it’s payback for Julian exposing the ugly truth of these people.

  6. mike k
    May 9, 2019 at 11:06

    Assange and his lawyers and supporters are struggling in the web of lies and phony laws woven by the Mafias of Evil that pass themselves off as national governments.

  7. O Society
    May 9, 2019 at 10:56

    Here’s one I put together which has info on Mueller, Comey, Brennan, Clapper – the whole Our Gang of corruption – for reference:

  8. Joe Tedesky
    May 9, 2019 at 09:54

    It is depressing to see that ‘the truth’ in journalism hinges on such a small group of truth tellers. Seriously even if we were to expand this group outwardly from Assange, Snowden, and Manning to doubling that group it’s still only a half a dozen if that who are reliable truth defenders. That’s an awful low number of truth tellers. So where is the journalist community when we need them? Apparently paychecks and job security wins out for most journalists over telling the public the truth.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 9, 2019 at 10:04

      Please note my above critique is aimed at the MSM and not the many fine journalists such as we find here at the Consortium. Thank God for such sites as this. Yet without the mighty MSM Wurlitzer the truth teller community is still sadly a small group of truth tellers at that.

    • Sam F
      May 9, 2019 at 12:48

      It would be useful to know more of the established “journalist community”:
      1. What is the training and motivation of managers of schools of journalism;
      2. Who funds the buildings, programs, scholarships, and endowed chairs;
      3. How the schools select careerist opportunists and those of oligarchy sympathies;
      4. How the profs vet and recommend them for jobs;
      5. How the MSM select, vet, train, and weed them.
      Showing MSM corruption by money power is fundamental to their discrediting.
      That should be a channel within each alternative medium, to show their necessity.
      Everyone who visits should see reliable reports of cold facts on MSM corruption.
      Is that who they would entrust with the facts that guide their actions and future as citizens?

      • Joe Tedesky
        May 9, 2019 at 16:48

        Sam to me it seems as though every institution has been so very seriously corrupted by a permeating force so twisted by they’re desires of power that all is loss for a reasonable person of good conscience to exist in any way shape or form. This situation is so taken over by these culprits of greed that’s it’s overwhelming to how we the people can undo what has been done to our society to the point of no return. With any luck hopefully the younger generation coming up will have the answer to our cultural dilemma. Best too you Sam your comments are always intelligent and worth the read. Joe

        • Sam F
          May 9, 2019 at 17:48

          Thanks, Joe, I always enjoy your comments and responses.

      • Sam F
        May 9, 2019 at 17:50

        Are there readable, reliable, and complete analyses of the corruption of journalism education?
        Displays and reviews of those might help retain visitors to alternative news sites.

      • jmg
        May 9, 2019 at 19:00

        Sam F wrote: “5. How the MSM select, vet, train, and weed them.”

        Some answers here:

        How Plutocratic Media Keeps Staff Aligned With Establishment Agendas – Caitlin Johnstone

        • Skip Scott
          May 10, 2019 at 07:58

          One of Caitlin’s best!!! Thanks for the link.

    • jmg
      May 9, 2019 at 16:37

      There is a new Chelsea Manning today. An arrested whistleblower — Daniel Everette Hale — another hero exposing government crimes (drone mass murder program):

      “In an indictment unsealed on May 9, the government alleges that documents on the U.S. drone program were leaked to a news organization. These documents detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including U.S. citizens, through drone strikes. They are of vital public importance, and activity related to their disclosure is protected by the First Amendment. The alleged whistleblower faces up to 50 years in prison. No one has ever been held accountable for killing civilians in drone strikes. (…)”

      Statement on the Indictment of Alleged Drone Strike Whistleblower — The Intercept

      • Joe Tedesky
        May 9, 2019 at 17:29

        Thanks jmg that’s news worth knowing about. Joe

    • Skip Scott
      May 10, 2019 at 07:55

      Wow!!! Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse….

  9. Jill
    May 8, 2019 at 18:25

    Dear Stefania,

    I am happy that I have this opportunity to thank you for all the work you have done to expose wrongdoing. I thank you for supporting both Assange and Manning.

    Even though you could only obtain a small percentage of information regarding the charges in Sweden, it was very helpful in seeing what was going on. Clearly, the US was successful in pressuring both the UK and Sweden to do its bidding. Apparently, both nations were more than willing to ignore the rule of law on behalf of the US. They still are.

    This whole situation has shown how many nations and how many people do not take human rights seriously. That is very dangerous and those who have remained silent or complicit in the face of human rights violation will rue this day, just as most of us will. I hope we can pull together to prevail. Thank you again for your fine work and true sense of justice.

  10. mike k
    May 8, 2019 at 17:11

    The persecution of Assange is a turning point in the death throes of democracy in the West. Nothing remains now but criminals spouting lies to cover their horrible crimes.

  11. jmg
    May 8, 2019 at 16:30

    “You are being lied to about Julian Assange. He has exposed more war crimes, crimes against humanity, corruption, & lies than perhaps anyone in history.

    “That is why our government is so eager to lock him away forever.”

    —Lee Camp, 2019-04-23

    This tweet includes an impressive broadcast where stand-up comedian Lee Camp is much more informative than the rest of mainstream media on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’s extraordinary journalism.

    • Brian
      May 9, 2019 at 12:46

      Surreal times indeed, our MSM “journalists” are entertainers, and our entertainers (Dore, Camp, etc.) become truth telling journalists.

Comments are closed.