John Shipton is on a tour around Australia rallying support for his son, Julian Assange. Consortium News was in Sydney and streamed live from Canberra for Shipton’s Home Run event.
Julian Assange, the still imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher, had his extradition request from the United States denied by British judge Vanessa Baraitser because of Assange of fear of suicide if he were sent to a U.S. prison. But the Trump administration is appealing to the High Court in London, an appeal that the Biden administration is continuing.
On the road with the father of Julian Assange, John Shipton, are friends from Melbourne to Sydney and Canberra via regional centres along the way. They’re travelling as a small convoy of vans and support vehicles in a series of street SpeakOuts, meetings with local supporters, photo ops and campfire conversations.
The Canberra event was live streamed on Sunday here on CN Live! Speaking in Canberra: John Shipton, Caroline Le Couture, Bernard Colleary & David McBride.
On Friday the tour stopped at Martin Place in the Central Business District of Sydney: The speakers were Shirley Lomaz, Jacob Grech, Lissa Johnson, John Shipton, Alison Broinowski and CN Editor Joe Lauria. You can watch the event here:
Joe Lauria’s remarks:
It would be sufficient reason to come out here in numbers today to defend a man who has been cruelly treated by two Western states and abandoned by another. It would have been enough to be here to defend a son and a father.
But we know this case is much bigger than one man’s life. It goes to the very core of whether Western democratic institutions, in particular the justice system and the press, survive.
Having had remote access to the Old Bailey, we at CN heard Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser pronounce the word “discharge” as in: “I order the discharge of Julian Paul Assange.” Those who want to see the man free, for personal reasons or on principle, were right, for that fleeting moment, to rejoice.
It was only later that I questioned whether the word “discharge” had a different legal meaning than it does in plain English. For, as we know, Baraitser inexplicably sent Assange back to the hellhole of Belmarsh, after barring his extradition because of the state of his mental health.
And then we contemplated what Baraitser’s judgement meant for journalism, even if Assange should defeat the American appeal. She upheld the criminalization of journalism contained in Assange’s indictment.
This is an immensely historic case because it is an historic first. It is the first time a publisher and a journalist has been indicted for espionage in the United States for the act of publishing defense information.
The espionage laws in the U.S. and Britain were written not only to outlaw classic foreign espionage, but so broadly as to make it possible to indict a journalist.
FDR and Nixon came close before, in the 1942 against journalists at the Chicago Tribune, and in 1973 against reporters at the NYT in the Pentagon Papers case. Obama nearly indicted Assange in 2011 but pulled back because his administration knew that to prosecute a journalist for publishing could invite a constitutional crisis with the First Amendment and turn the media against him.
Well Trump took that chance. And how has the media reacted? On the day of Assange’s arrest there were editorials that recognized the lethal threat to a free press. After that there has been mostly silence.
After all, Assange has shamed the media profession. He has done the job they should have been doing and scooped them badly. For decades, with few exceptions, the media have cozied up to power and covered up their crimes. They’ve explained away the coups and the invasions and the surveillance as good for spreading democracy and “protecting” the West—especially America– from hyped up or non-existant threats.
This is why so many people in the West find it so hard to support a journalist who exploded so many myths about their leaders, about their country and about themselves. They have been led to believe that political repression and extreme secrecy only takes place in those other countries: the Soviet Union, Russia, China and any developing country that objects to American bullying.
Assange helped make it possible for Westerners to understand what is wrong with their governments and their foreign aggression. But many don’t want to know. They are attached to their national identities and turn on him for making them doubt what they believe are their governments’ good intentions—to spread democracy, for instance, instead the reality of its geo-strategic and economic influence.
It’s time for people to shed this fake innocence and embrace universal human values—not the so-called Western values—and to defend Assange and the profession of journalism as it should be practiced—and as he has.