16 December, 2010

Wikileaks, Cablegate, and Freedom of the Press

I've been watching with interest and concern for the past week as Wikileaks comes under a maelstrom of mostly aggressive rhetoric in The United States - people in high places calling for the assassination of spokesperson Julian Assange for the publication of low-level “secrets” involving diplomats, government heads around the world, and some corporations. Why, Julian Assange is a traitor, they say, guilty of espionage, collaboration, crimes against the state. But, wait a minute. It comes to light that he's not even an American, but an Australian. Yet these Americans are talking as if he is betraying his own country. It seems these people feel that the world belongs to The United States, that indeed there are no more sovereign countries, just one big family with Brother Sam in charge.

And Brother Sam has a big voice and long arms. The voice is so loud that it can be heard echoing through the halls of the news media in America. Suddenly they stop covering the content of the cables, mostly, and start concentrating on the case against Assange. It starts to look like a witch hunt, led by some people with pretty big guns.

And surprise, that voice is so loud, so penetrating, that it can be heard all the way to Canada, where my little local newspaper stops covering Cablegate and relegates it to a tiny mention somewhere near the middle of the paper or on the opinion page. But there aren't even many of those.

To find out what's going on, because now I'm getting interested, not only in what the cables are saying about what's been going on around the world, but in the challenge to freedom of the press/speech, and why nobody's talking about it, I have to go to the Internet and various alternative news sources that I've come to rely on in the past when I sense that the news is not being reported in a balanced way.

Thank God for those.

What do I find? That there's been a lot of dirty tricks around the world in various countries and that sometimes American and British corporations seem to be involved in them. And, maybe, it has been happening with the collusion of government. And it is stuff that should absolutely be taken seriously, and should stop because it shows that politicians are not so concerned about human rights or the health and welfare of people in other countries as they are about jockeying for advantage or selling something. Maybe not a big surprise, but there is a difference between suspecting something, and getting something more concrete, and Wikileaks gives us a lot more information about our suspicions.

That it discomfits the US government is no surprise, but that they would go to the lengths they have, of allegedly suggesting to Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, and banks in other countries to stop accepting donations and freeze accounts, in an attempt to shut Wikileaks down is almost unbelievable. After all, there have been no charges to date and everything would have to have been done with just suggestions. I say suggestions but I'm thinking threats. None of this sounds remotely democratic or even lawful.

Then, Julian Assange is arrested on a warrant that wants him in Sweden for questioning related to a possible sexual molestation case. As yet, he hasn't even been charged with anything, and it comes to light that he had already been questioned on the same allegations in Sweden, and allowed to leave because the charges were found to be without merit by the prosecutor in charge. But then, suddenly, after the cables start to be released, a new prosecutor wants him for questioning in Sweden and puts out a warrant for extradition. Now, I don't know what he did or didn't do, but I find the timing of this very suspicious and my suspicions grow as the days pass and Julian Assange is denied bail, and held in solitary confinement and now without funds, because Wikileaks assets have been frozen, so even if bail is set he will have a hard job raising it. Hmm, I wonder did the US think of this and if it wasn't another one of their “suggestions”?

Fortunately, some people who seem to see the way things are going, some people in Britain and Michael Moore in America, concerned for freedom of the press, get together and raise bail and it looks like, after a second hearing, he will be out of jail on bail either today or tomorrow. Of course that bail had to be 240, 000 pounds and it had to be in CASH, and Julian will have to wear an electronic surveillance tag and have curfews and report to the police every day, just as if he were a REAL traitor, or high-level spy or something, not someone not yet accused of a crime but wanted for questioning in another country.

And, thanks to the Internet, we hear rumours that the long arm, or possibly loose interpretations, of the law are being invoked, as the US government tries to conjure up a case against him for colluding with Bradley Manning in releasing the cables. That's the Bradley Manning who allegedly blew the whistle on the military shooting those 21 journalists and civilians in a sickening video called “Collateral Murder” that you can watch on youtube.

I'm not an expert on anything, but as an observer of this whole situation, I can tell you that I am extremely concerned that governments that we expect to be transparent, democratic, and open to the inspection and approval of citizens seem to be anything but.

You might not be able to see the whole story on your local or national news station, but fortunately there's the Internet. I've put some links at the top of my page where you can get the other side of the story. Because, I trust that you can read all the facts and make your own mind up, and that you, the citizens, can do so without a gagged media, or biased politician to tell you what to think.

The government may not trust you, but I do.


Johanna GGG said...

just stumbled across this post - interesting to hear views on this from across the world. It is really disappointing that the Australian government is so spineless about this - they have had the federal police confirm that there Assange has not broken any laws in his wikileaks activities and then the prime minister washes her hands of him and says if the USA finds him guilty then they can act on it!

vegetablej said...

Hi Johanna:

Not only the Australian government. This whole thing is instructive of how politicians in a lot of different countries seem to be members of a private club, one to which we the people are not invited. We seem not to matter as much as them supporting each other, right or wrong. Representative government? I think not.