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Moore: Assange Prosecution Would Eradicate Press Freedom

Monday, April 24, 2017


Julian Assange

Julian Assange

Any freedom loving American understands that a cornerstone of US democracy is the freedom of the press. If we lose it, we lose our freedoms.

Without muckrakers out there digging up dirt, asking tough questions, and holding the people who hold the reins that control our government accountable, American greatness will be diminished.

Government officials have always had a tendency to try operate under the cloak of secrecy because it’s human nature to dislike being held accountable or second guessed. But if we’re really going to remain a government of, for, and by the people, than it stands to reason that the people have a right to know what’s going on.

One of the cooler aspects of the technological revolution we’ve all lived through, with the advent of blogging, is that the barriers have been broken down. No longer does one need an expensive printing press, distribution system, or a massive staff to do valuable reporting and journalism. The gates have been smashed.

Decentralization of Media (Welcome it!)

That’s a good thing. It means anyone with the drive and an wifi connection can be a journalist. (The legacy media, of course, hates this, because it diminishes their power and prestige.)

That’s why I’m so disheartened by the announcement by Jeff Sessions, the United States Attorney General, is seeking the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, should send chills down the spine of anyone who believes in freedom, particularly that of the press. The US plans to arrest Assange for violating The Espionage Act, for, in part, directing Chelsea Manning to leak classified information.

Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London, since 2010, became world-renowned that year when he published that information, and other classified information of the US government, and other governments throughout the world.

Wikileaks has provided a great deal of invaluable reporting, and almost none of their most important revelations have anything to do with Hillary Clinton. (Wikileaks release of emails hacked by the Democratic National Committee have made the organization and Assange household names.)

Initially, the organization revealed that the US frequently spies on foreign diplomats, shot missiles in Yemen without acknowledging it (in 2010 and prior), and exposed corruption in Afghanistan, while the US looked the other way.

Useful Information

Then there were the revelations about Hillary Clinton and her self-dealing that basically blurred the line between The Clinton Foundation and the state department.

Most recently, the organization revealed that CIA hackers often target cell phones and smart televisions--meaning our own technology can be used for spying against us.

Unsurprisingly, during last year’s presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump opportunistically praised Wikileaks and its work, which largely exposed candidate Hillary Clinton as a say-anything-to-get-elected type who saw government as a mechanism to enrich herself, her family and her friends at the expense of the rest of us all. That was then.

Trump even pointed out, on multiple occasions, that what mattered was the material, not who was doing the leaking or the reporting of it.

The More We Know...

Now that he’s President, Trump has conveniently told media outlets that he has no problem with prosecuting Assange.

Here’s why we should. There’s no difference between Wikileaks and any other news outlet. They’re committed to transparency and informing the public.

If the US government can prosecute Julian Assange for his journalism, there’s nothing to stop them from prosecuting another media outlet that publishes information that annoys the powerful bureaucrats who control our government.

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted just that on April 20th.

So Slippery We'll All Fall

“Prosecuting Wikileaks would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”

Even if that doesn’t come to pass, at the very least, this is going to intimidate news outlets and muckrakers going forward. That means we’ll know less about the workings of our government. The slope is, to quote Seinfeld, slippery as an eel.

Some will argue, that Wikileaks isn’t a legitimate news outlet. But I’m not comfortable with giving the power to the government to decide who is, and isn’t a media outlet. I’d rather leave that up to the public to decide.

Transparency is the antidote to corruption. The less transparency we have, the more corruption will follow.

That’s why if the US is able to successfully arrest and prosecute Assange, the American people will be the real losers.

Russell Moore has worked on both sides of the desk in Rhode Island media, both for newspapers and on political campaigns. Send him email at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @russmoore713.


Trump Infrastructure List - January 2017


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