By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, June 7, 2019)
Power likes darkness; the powerful harbour disdain, disgust and disregard for the intrusive glare of light. The political class does not subscribe to the notion of sunshine as the best disinfectant. Bad things happen under the cloak of darkness, and the powerful frequently cringe and scurry for cover when dark spaces are flooded with the illuminating brilliance of light. This is why former head teacher, Otto Sam was transferred, then fired, for writing the letter about NEMO’s state of disaster unpreparedness.
Kenton Chance, St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ most competent and enterprising journalist, is pilloried for doing good journalistic work. Daniel Ellsberg was crucified for publishing the Pentagon Papers, which disclosed the colossal crimes the United States was committing in Viet Nam. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden had to flee the United States and take up residence in Moscow. Chelsea Manning was jailed for 30 years by Obama’s Justice Department for disclosing a huge volume of secrets; classified information that blew the lid off the war crimes and crimes against humanity that the American military forces were committing against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is why Julian Assange, the founder and publisher of Wikileaks, is being tortured, arrested, jailed and facing 170 years in jail, if he is ever tried by a US kangaroo court on trumped up espionage charges.
This is also why the US military sent out a memo, more than 10 years ago, outlining ways in which Assange was to be smeared and propagandised against, so that he would not be seen as a true journalist, but as an enemy. And so, in truly Orwellian fashion, Assange, who has done more than most to shed light on the American government’s crimes and criminality, which include torture, disappearance, murder and detention without trial, is seen as a bad man, while the true war criminals walk around in business suits and with deadly smiles.
Malcolm X’s words ring true: “If we are not careful, those who own and control the media will make us hate our friends and love our enemy.” As a result of the negative propaganda, all of these brave souls cited above are seen in a bad light by a significant section of the population, because of politics and the machinations of the powerful. The major media houses, which published the documents released by Julian Assange and Wikileaks have now joined the Swedish, British, and American government’s efforts to tarnish and thus reduce trust in Assange and Wikileaks. When your neighbour’s house is on fire, wet yours. News that is unflattering is described as fake news. Sections of the media are tarred as enemy of the people.
With Assange’s arrest, Daniel Ellsberg is correct when he argues that “every journalist in the country now knows for the first time, that she or he is subject to prosecution for doing their job as journalists. It cuts out the First Amendment’s freedom of the press, which is the cornerstone of our American democracy and of this republic.”
In the old days of journalism, journalists went to jail so as to protect their sources. Today, the journalist is being punished for doing his/her work, which is to discover a lead, follow the story to the end, and publish their findings.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, founder of the online investigative news source, Intercept,eloquently captures the essence of the current battle. “Journalism isn’t espionage. Being a journalistic source isn’t engaging in spying. And publishing information that lays bare government misconduct is not espionage. When journalism is treated as a crime, we are all in danger. The Assange indictment is not the end of the Wiki Leaks saga. It is the beginning of a major assault on freedom of the press.”
The ink had not yet dried on Greenfield’s words and he has been proven correct. Last Wednesday, the story broke that the Australian Federal Police raided the headquarters of the country’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC), in connection with a story the network broadcast in 2017, detailing misconduct by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.
The 2017 report, dubbed the Afghan Files, uncovered allegations of unlawful killings of unarmed civilians, including children. These and other forms of misconduct were committed by Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan. It also quoted from military documents that expressed concern about a deterioration of organizational culture within the elite Special Forces, and a “willingness by officers to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour”.
Daniel Oakes and Sam Clark, who produced The Afghan Files, were described as “two of the finest journalists’ who are ‘honest and committed to telling the truth in the Australian public’s interests”. The ABCManaging Director David Anderson said, the raid was “highly unusual” and “a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and Defense matters”. He said the network would “stand by its journalists, will protect sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest”.
The Australian authorities also raided News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. Smethurst reported on secret plans to allow government spying. Marcus Strom, an official with the journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said police raids against the media were “becoming normalized and it has to stop”. Strom said the raids represent a “disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom”. Clearly, the governments are being emboldened by the successes scored in the assault, harassment, jailing and torture against Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
This is a new low. The deep dark state is coming for all of us, and too many of us are cheering on the encroachment on our rights and freedoms. One can only hope that we come to our senses before it’s too late. We must remember never to forget Angela Davis’ wise words: “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night.”
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