The failure by journalists to mount a campaign to free Julian Assange, or expose the vicious smear campaign against him, is one more catastrophic and self-defeating blunder by the news media.

By Chris Hedges, The Real News Network

The persecution of Julian Assange, along with the climate of fear, wholesale government surveillance and use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers, has emasculated investigative journalism. The press has not only failed to mount a sustained campaign to support Julian, whose extradition appears imminent, but no longer attempts to shine a light into the inner workings of power. This failure is not only inexcusable, but ominous.

julian assange supporter with sign that says drop the charges

The U.S. government, especially the military and agencies such as the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and Homeland Security, have no intention of stopping with Julian, who faces 170 years in prison if found guilty of violating 17 counts of the Espionage Act. They are cementing into place mechanisms of draconian state censorship, some features of which were exposed by Matt Taibbi in the Twitter Files, to construct a dystopian corporate totalitarianism.

The U.S. and the U.K. brazenly violated a series of judicial norms and diplomatic protocols to keep Julian trapped for seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy after he had been granted political asylum by Ecuador. The CIA, through the Spanish security firm UC Global, made recordings of Julian’s meetings with his attorneys, which alone should invalidate the extradition case. Julian has been held for more than four years in the notorious Belmarsh high-security prison since the British Metropolitan Police dragged him out of the embassy on April 11, 2019. The embassy is supposed to be the sovereign territory of Ecuador. Julian has not been sentenced in this case for a crime. He is charged under the Espionage Act, although he is not a U.S. citizen and WikiLeaks is not a U.S.-based publication. The U.K. courts, which have engaged in what can only be described as a show trial, appear ready to turn him over to the U.S. once his final appeal, as we expect, is rejected. This could happen in a matter of days or weeks.

On Wednesday night at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Stella Assange, an attorney who is married to Julian; Matt Kennard, co-founder and chief investigator of Declassified UK, and I examined the collapse of the press, especially with regard to Julian’s case. You can watch our discussion here.

“I feel like I’m living in 1984,” Matt said. “This is a journalist who revealed more crimes of the world’s superpower than anyone in history. He’s sitting in a maximum-security prison in London. The state that wants to bring him over to that country to put him in prison for the rest of his life is on record as spying on his privileged conversations with his lawyers. They’re on record plotting to assassinate him. Any of those things, if you told someone from a different time ‘Yeah this is what happened and he was sent anyway and not only that, but the media didn’t cover it at all.’ It’s really scary. If they can do that to Assange, if civil society can drop the ball and the media can drop the ball, they can do that to any of us.”

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