Eliminating dissent


April 11, 2023 marked the 4th year of Julian Assange’s incarceration in Britain’s Belmarsh prison. The hostility towards WikiLeaks, its founder and their identification as a threat to the establishment began well before his imprisonment. In 2010, a New York Times article observed that the Pentagon had added WikiLeaks to the ‘list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States because of their ability to expose information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.” Many of the documents published by WikiLeaks have embarrassed those in power, while exposing many forms of criminality and collusion.

The subsequent unleashing of State and Corporate propaganda, including the demonization of Assange prior to his indictment, was documented by former UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer in his book “The trial of Julian Assange”. In it he summarises, “The Assange case is the story of a man who is being persecuted for exposing the dirty secrets of the powerful, including war crimes, torture and corruption. It is a story of deliberate judicial arbitrariness in Western democracies that are otherwise keen to present themselves as exemplary in the area of human rights.”

Assange’s award winning journalism and subsequent persecution prompted a large coalition of high profile human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International (US) and the American Civil Liberties Union to sign an open letter calling on the US department of Justice to drop the prosecution, recognising that the “his indictment poses a grave threat to press freedom” and will “jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy.”

Much of this is unknown to the public. Those that scream loudest about freedom and democracy remain silent while Assange awaits an appeal to prevent his extradition to the US where he faces up to 175 years in a CIA prison. The absence of media coverage and political advocacy on the 4th anniversary of his arrest, despite the obvious implications for free speech in our society, affirm the ability of the powerful to eliminate voices that threaten to expose them. Without greater public awareness and engagement, censorship will continue to grow in parallel with a disintegrating world.

Vagner Castilho
Member of Transition Écologique
La Pêche Coalition for a Green New Deal