Category Archives: journalism

Protest in solidarity with Julian Assange outside the walls of Belmarsh Prison

A Visit to Belmarsh Prison, Where Julian Assange Awaits His Final Appeal Against Extradition to the US

HMP Belmarsh. It is 2:30 pm on Wednesday, December 13, when Julian Assange strides into the visitors’ area. He stands out in the column of 23 prisoners for his height — 6′ 2″ — and flowing white locks with trimmed beard. He squints, looking for a familiar face among the wives, sisters, sons, and fathers of the other inmates. I am waiting, as assigned, at D-3, one of about 40 sets of small coffee tables surrounded by three upholstered chairs — two blue, one red — screwed into the floor of what looks like a basketball court. We spot each other, walk forward, and embrace. It is the first time I have seen him in six years. I blurt, “You’re pale.” Through a mischievous smile I remember from past meetings, he jokes, “They call it prison pale.”

He has not been outdoors — apart from a minute when police dragged him into a paddy wagon — since he took refuge in London’s cramped Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012. The embassy’s French windows had afforded glimpses of sky. Here at Belmarsh maximum security prison in southeast London, his abode since April 11, 2019, he has not seen the sun. Warders confine him to a cell for 23 out of every 24 hours. His single hour of recreation takes place within four walls, under supervision. His paleness is best described as deathly.

Continue reading →
Newspaper reports William N. Oatis missing

The US Condemned Stalin’s Prosecution of Journalists. Now It Uses His Playbook.

The prosecution of Julian Assange in 2023 mirrors the prosecution of journalist Bill Oatis during the Cold War.

Two of my colleagues — Evan Gershkovich in Moscow and Julian Assange in London — languish in prisons for doing their job: keeping you informed. Russia and the U.S., knowingly or not, are following Joseph Stalin’s press playbook. A case in point: the Stalinist persecution of U.S. journalist William (Bill) Nathan Oatis in Cold War Czechoslovakia, which mirrors the contemporary prosecutions of my colleagues.

To Bill Oatis, as to Assange and Gershkovich, journalism was less a job than a vocation. He worked on school newspapers from the age of 12 and dropped out of college in 1933 to take a job at his hometown newspaper, the Marion, Indiana, Leader-Tribune. From there, he moved to the Associated Press (AP) bureau in the state capital, Indianapolis. (His managing editor, Drysdale Brannon, recalled, “He was a factual reporter and probably the most conscientious man who ever worked on the staff.”) Diverted from journalism to the Army for three years during World War II, he returned to the AP, first to its New York news desk, then to London and in 1950 to Prague, Czechoslovakia, as bureau chief.

Continue reading →
The Great War, Library of Congress

Revisiting the Mental Health Fallout from the Unprecedented Horror of the First World War

All the armies in the Great War had a word for it: the Germans called it “Kriegsneurose”; the French “la confusion mentale de la guerre”; the British “neurasthenia” and, when Dr. Charles Samuel Myers introduced the soldiers’ slang into medical discourse in 1915, “shell shock.” Twenty-five years later, it was “battle fatigue.” By the end of the twentieth century, it became post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In December 1914, a mere five months into “the war to end war,” Britain’s armed forces lost 10 percent of all frontline officers and 4 percent of enlisted men, the “other ranks,” to “nervous and mental shock.” An editorial that month in the British medical journal The Lancet lamented “the frequency with which hysteria, traumatic and otherwise, is showing itself.”

Continue reading →

Ruling Assange Can’t Be Extradited Is an Indictment of US Prisons

But the British court judgment, which is likely to be appealed, also delivers a body blow to freedom of speech.

My junior year high school English teacher liked to tell a story about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson to illustrate the differences between America’s two great transcendentalist writers. Thoreau was jailed in 1846 for withholding taxes that paid for the invasion of Mexico and protected slave owners. Emerson came to speak to Thoreau through the bars of his cell. My teacher, with theatrical flair and stentorian voice, recounted the conversation:

‘Emerson: “What are you doing in there, Henry David?”
Thoreau: “The question is, what are you doing out there, Ralph Waldo?”’

We might ask ourselves what we are doing out here while Julian Assange remains “in there” at Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in London…

Read Julian Assange In His Own Words

Continue reading →
Penn, Zenger, Assange

If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free

Like William Penn and John Peter Zenger, the Wikileaks founder is fighting for our freedom.

When the magistrate presiding last September at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, Vanessa Baraitser, confined the defendant to a bullet-proof glass cage at the back of the court, she had precedent on her side. All who entered her courtroom at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, had to pass a plaque memorializing a case against another defender of free speech and thought…

Continue reading →
Free Julian Assange

Biden’s Choice on Julian Assange and the First Amendment

Assange’s liberty represents that of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution.

When Joe Biden becomes president of the United States on January 20, a historic opportunity awaits him to demonstrate America’s commitment to the First Amendment. He can, in a stroke, reverse four years of White House persecution of journalism by withdrawing the application to extradite Julian Assange from Britain to the U.S. This would be in line with the departures from Trump policies Biden is proposing on health care, environmental protection, and tax fairness. Assange’s liberty represents the liberty of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution. We need and deserve to be protected against government control of the press.

Continue reading →
Julian Assange

The Unprecedented and Illegal Campaign to Eliminate Julian Assange

Assange would never receive a fair trial in the U.S., but he’s not receiving one in Britain either. Over the 17 days of Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London, prosecutors succeeded in proving both crimes and conspiracy. The culprit, however, was not Assange. Instead, the lawbreakers and conspirators turned out to be the British and American governments. Witness after witness detailed illegal measures to violate Assange’s right to a fair trial, destroy his health, assassinate his character, and imprison him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

Continue reading →

Notes on isolation, from those who know it well

The window was sealed behind a sheet of solid steel. The door was locked. Thick chains bound one arm and one ankle. The room was bare apart from a thin foam mat for a bed and a plastic bottle to pee into. I was alone.

That was the summer of 1987, when Hizbullah was holding me hostage in Lebanon. They had many other hostages, but I didn’t see them. In fact, I saw no one. When a guard came into the room, I had to put on a blindfold so that I couldn’t identify him. The only conversations I had were a few interrogations, when I was also blindfolded. The questioning involved threats and verbal abuse, but mercifully no torture. As unpleasant as they were, they broke the monotony. The rest of the time left me thinking, remembering, imagining. One way of relieving the loneliness was to pretend that one or another of my children was with me, each on a different day. I made chess pieces out of paper labels on water bottles to play with each one. Sometimes I let them win, or they beat me outright.

Although I never saw daylight, I was acutely aware of time. Every morning when I woke, I reminded myself of the date and thought, “This is day ten (or whatever other number it happened to be) of my captivity – and my last.” The only idea that sustained my morale was that somehow I would escape. After 62 days, I did.

Now, there is no escape. Where would I go? Most of the planet is locked down.

Continue reading →
Julian Assange

Free Julian Assange!

By depriving the WikiLeaks founder of his freedom, prosecutors in the US and Britain are intimidating journalists—and abetting torturers, war criminals, and kleptocrats everywhere.

If WikiLeaks did not exist, the public would know much less than it does about what government and politicians are doing in its name.

When a 35-year-old Australian named Julian Assange launched WikiLeaks with a few like-minded friends in 2006, he little knew what exposing malfeasance would cost him. The WikiLeaks model was simple: provide a safe repository for documents showing state and corporate wrongdoing while guaranteeing anonymity for the leaker. Newspapers were not necessarily safe for whistle-blowers, as British civil servant Sarah Tisdall discovered in 1983 when London’s The Guardian caved in to a court order and handed over documents that identified her as the source for its story on US cruise missile deployment in the UK. She went to prison for four months and lost her job…

Continue reading →

Why Good Reporting Isn’t Dead

Sometimes old journalists like myself feel for the Roman captives who called out to Emperor Claudius, “Ave Imperator, morituri te salutamus — Hail, Emperor, we who are about to die salute you.” Sometimes, though, a great scoop comes along to give our profession a stay of execution. It has just happened in Brazil, where disclosures published by The Intercept Brasil have severely wounded the country’s new political establishment. In case you missed it, reporting by Intercept journalists Andrew Fishman, Rafael Moro Martins, Leandro Demori, Glenn Greenwald and Amanda Audi has exposed Brazil’s much-vaunted anti-corruption investigation, “Operation Car Wash,” to accusations that it was, in large measure, a political tool used to rig last year’s presidential elections. For Brazil, it is Watergate times 10.

Internal documents and Telegram text messages acquired by The Intercept appear to demonstrate collusion among prosecutors to prevent former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from running in the election against Jair Bolsonaro and then to damage the campaign of his successor as Workers’ Party candidate, Fernando Haddad. This scoop came courtesy of a whistleblower who has put himself at risk in a country whose National Federation of Journalists recorded 135 acts of violence against journalists, including the murder of four, in 2018. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented the murders of 42 Brazilian journalists since 1992 and reports that Brazil’s Intercept staff “have received threats on email and social media following their publication of politically sensitive stories this month.” It takes a brave soul to provide evidence of official criminality to journalists not only in Brazil but in most of the world. The risks are murder, torture and imprisonment for the leaker as well as the journalist…

Continue reading →