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Prisoner for Free Speech: the Relentless Pursuit of Julian Assange

Prisoner for Free Speech: the Relentless Pursuit of Julian Assange

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta returned to the White House on 17 November, a few days after a US judge had forced President Donald Trump to reverse the revocation of his press pass. Smiling before 50 or more photographers and cameramen, Acosta said triumphantly: ‘This was a test and I think we passed the test. Journalists need to know that in this country their First Amendment rights of freedom of the press are sacred, they’re protected in our constitution. Throughout all of this I was confident and I thought that … our rights would be protected as we continue to cover our government and hold our leaders accountable.’ Fade-out, happy ending.

Julian Assange probably did not watch the moving conclusion of this story live on CNN. He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London six years ago, and his life there has become that of a prisoner: he cannot go outside for fear of being arrested by the British police, then probably extradited to the US; his access to communications is limited and he has been harassed repeatedly since Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, decided to please the US and make conditions less comfortable for his ‘guest’.

The reason for his detention, and the threat of several decades in prison in the US (in 2010 Trump wanted him executed), is his WikiLeaks website which has been behind the major revelations that have inconvenienced the world’s powerful over the last decade: photographic evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, US industrial espionage, secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. The dictatorship of former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was shaken by the leaking of a US State Department cable that referred to this kleptocracy, a US ally, as a ‘sclerotic regime’ and ‘quasi-mafia’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Official Fake News

The Official Fake News

Emmanuel Macron, who was comfortably elected to the presidency with the support of almost the entire French media, has demanded that his parliamentary majority provide him with a law against ‘fake news’ during election campaigns. Perhaps he’s preparing for the next one.

The draft legislation reveals both the blindness of those who govern when challenged and their inclination to invent new coercive countermeasures. You would have to be myopic indeed to believe that the victory of ‘anti-establishment’ candidates, parties and causes (Donald Trump, Brexit, the Catalan referendum, Italy’s Five Star Movement) could, even marginally, be the consequence of authoritarian regimes spreading fake news. The US press has been trying to demonstrate for a year, as yet without conclusive evidence, that Trump owes his election to fake news manufactured by Vladimir Putin.

Macron has a similar obsession, to the point of hoping to make fake news vanish with a law that is both useless and dangerous. Useless because France’s Council of State pointed out on 19 April that ‘French law already contains several measures intended to combat the dissemination of false information’: in particular the law of 29 July 1881 on the freedom of the press, which permits curbs on the dissemination of false information and the expression of views that are defamatory or abusive or incite hatred.

And dangerous because the bill about to go before parliament would require a judge to act within 48 hours to ‘stop the artificial and large-scale dissemination of news constituting false information.’ But, the Council of State’s response continued, ‘these are hard to determine legally, especially when the judge must give a judgement within a very short time.’ Macron’s law would also strengthen Internet service providers’ and hosts’ duty of cooperation with the authorities, since it extends to all false information restraints that were initially aimed at preventing ‘apologism for crimes against humanity, incitement to hatred and child pornography.’

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fabricating a War on Iran

Fabricating a War on Iran

Photo by futureatlas.com | CC BY 2.0

Secretary of State Colin Powell brandished a vial he claimed contained anthrax at the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003, and showed satellite photos of secret sites where chemical weapons were supposed to be manufactured. He later admitted the story was fabricated, but not before it had served as a PR launch pad for the Iraq war.

On 11 December 2017 the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, appeared with huge fragments of what she claimed was an Iranian missile that had missed its target. She maintained it had been fired from Yemen at a Saudi civil airport, ‘a G20 country’ and had ‘the potential to kill hundreds of innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia … Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK. Or the airport in Paris, London or Berlin.’

Never mind it could not have travelled that far. Once again, fear is being manufactured to justify war: 14 years after destroying Iraq, the US government has Iran in its sights.

Haley’s lack of imagination might be entertaining were the subject not so serious. In 2003 Powell criticised the existence of ‘sinister’ links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida. This was replayed on 1 November 2017: the CIA published a cache of documents seized in Pakistan when Osama bin Laden was assassinated, supposed to prove the existence of improbable links between some of Bin Laden’s successors and Iran’s (Shia) leadership.

It’s as if Washington has already forgotten the support – real, not alleged – it gave Bin Laden when he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, or Ronald Reagan’s illegal arms sales to Iran when he sought funding for his far-right friends in Nicaragua.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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