Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Media figures come to defence of Assange after arrest on sex charges

I wrote yesterday that I would not follow the trial against Julian Assange, but it seems increasingly clear that the US wants him handed over to have him tried there. In that case, the story becomes much more interesting. It is very unlikely that Assange could actually be found guilty in an American court, but in todays society, the chance is better. Any court trying Assange, will face enormous pressure to deliver the desired verdict, and there is a chance that they might just cave in and deliver.

Some media figures have stepped up and decided to defend Assange recently. The website runs the following story today, on the Frontline Club's support of Assange:

The founder of investigative journalism club the Frontline Club has spoken out in defence of the WikiLeaks' founder and editor Julian Assange, following his arrest yesterday.


In a statement released last night, Vaughan Smith said that Assange has spent "much of the last several months" working from the Frontline Club and had been offered the address for bail. Smith also attended court yesterday to show his support for Assange "on a point of principle", he says.

"In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterised by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by Wikileaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.

"The Frontline Club was founded seven years ago to stand for independence and transparency. Recent informal canvassing of many of our more than 1,500 members at the Frontline Club suggests almost all are supportive of our position.

"I am suspicious of the personal charges that have been made against Mr Assange and hope that this will be properly resolved by the courts. Certainly no credible charges have been brought regarding the leaking of the information itself."

Sporadic attempts like this will likely have no major effect. It seems that what is needed is truly some actual, constant source of opposition. In the United States today, there is a tendency that the two biggest parties work together in most big cases (the war on terrorism, any actual war, the WikiLeaks war). This is unfortunate because it reduces the chances that people will stumble upon arguments that counter the core arguments that figure in the United States today.

Over time now, I will begin to try to present some of the research that shows just how much this actually matters. While people think they shape their opinions on their own, it is hardly the case. People form opinions based on cues and when the cues given to them are of a similar character ("WikiLeaks" = "terrorists", "illegal" etc.), people are likely to start believing in it, simply because no other sources counter such information. Humans are simply naive by nature.

With the two major American parties sharing the same view, the chances that questions that could be raised are not, increases sharply. Such questions would include what a verdict against Assange will mean in the future and whether it actually does any good. Some American politicians have been quite open about their view that the American system was better in the past when people were not as informed as they are today. This is a reality they may achieve if Assange is sentenced. Locking up Assange will set a precedence and other media organizations doing what he did, stands a high risk of ending up in Assange's position. This means that the United States will basically restrict the freedom of the press.

The other question is about as important. There are many signs that the way the US has fought terrorism, has in fact been a great source of recruitment to these terrorism organizations. The big question is what a verdict of Assange would do. Would others risk continuing if Assange is arrested? It remains to be seen, but there are many people who believes strongly in this. The freedom of the press isn't a right that can be taken away without reactions. This too must be taken into account when the response among allies is considered.

I definitely do hope I will not have to write more about this in the future. There is a good chance that Assange will not be found guilty and even a chance that he may not be handed over to the US. If he is, the results could be very bleak. There will be more on this story though.

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