Julian Assange: shame on you BBC; and shame on you UK
There was a time when I would automatically turn to the BBC for solid, unbiased, simple news. Now, like many others, I am turning elsewhere.
A case in point. Today the BBC reports on Julian Assange’s refusal to absent himself from the Ecuadorean embassy and present himself to the Metropolitan Police. The fourth paragraph, and remember that it is the first four paragraphs that also appear on Ceefax, says:
He wants to avoid being sent to Sweden to face rape and assault accusations.
Julian Assange ‘declines’ police order and Ceefax
These first four paragraphs are the ones read by most people, and seen probably by millions more on Ceefax. And that fourth paragraph misrepresents the truth so extensively it is effectively a lie. Assange repeatedly sought to have those charges properly investigated; but without the threat or possibility of subsequent, unrelated, extradition to the US.
The BBC gets closer, a little, to the truth, further on in the article:
Mr Assange fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could be sent on to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks and that there, he could face the death penalty.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, most people will have read the fourth paragraph, but not got as far as this tenth paragraph. Secondly, it is still carefully worded, so that ‘he could face the death penalty’. Most civilised people will dismiss this as paranoia: they will find it impossible to believe that the Land of the Free would execute someone for publishing genuine documents on a website. It’s simply beyond belief, therefore it can’t happen, therefore Assange is having a laugh. Therefore we don’t need to bother or even sympathise. And that is what this BBC report is designed to say; that is, what the authorities want us to hear.
The BBC report is actually about the statement by Susan Benn, a committee member on the Assange defense fund. Rather than read the sanitized BBC report, please read the full transcript here: Press Statement: By Julian Assange Defense Fund Outside the Ecuadorian Embassy. It includes this:
It should be made clear what would happen if Julian was extradited to the USA. The United Nations special rapporteur for torture, Juan Mendez has formally found that the United States has subjected Julian Assange’s alleged source in this matter, the young soldier Bradley Manning, to conditions amounting to torture. The UN found that the United States subjected Bradley Manning to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Mr. Manning has been charged by the US government with the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” in relation to his alleged interaction with Mr. Assange. Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for two years and was placed into solitary confinement for 9 months in his cell for 23 hours a day, stripped naked and woken every 5 minutes. His lawyer and support team say these harsh measures were to coerce him into implicating Julian Assange.
This is the reality of what British justice is offering Julian Assange. And remember this: it took a British judge exercising unacceptable semantic contortions – by saying that UK law is dependent upon the French language translation of an EU requirement – in order to make the extradition from the UK to Sweden appear to be legal.
This is unacceptable. The UK should be protecting Julian Assange and the principle of free speech – not offering him up to an out-of-control United States courtesy of an increasingly worrying Swedish puppet. It makes me ashamed to be British. And ashamed to help pay for the BBC.