News & Commentary

Julian Assange is a journalist, not Putin’s bitch

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“Journalism is not a crime”. Really? I’d say this slogan is hardly unassailable. I’d say this slogan, which began to appear in hashtag and t-shirt form when the Australian journalist Peter Greste was detained for his journalism practice, needs a second, a third, a seventeenth unflinching look.

Surely, Sarah Ferguson’s fantasy Putin trilogy, which concluded last night on Four Corners, is a form of public assault. Surely, the pages of The Australian that continue to argue for the upward redistribution of wealth in a time of great precarity are indecent. Surely at the time of Greste’s arrest, the refusal of local journalists to name our national support for US policy in Egypt was colossal negligence. Apparently, it was fine to bankroll the coup without which Greste would never have been interned.

Australian journalism is, in great part, a bunch of self-interested arse. No. Make that self-interested frequently racist arse.

You can’t have your freedom and eat the evidence of it, too. We lent support to foreign policy that made Greste’s journalism a crime. Our nation endorsed the criminalisation of journalism in Egypt, but our journalists, along with our political class, preferred to ponce about saying noble things about “liberty” and the excellent morals of a liberal democracy like ours. Australia denounced the imprisonment and censorship it had helped create.

Australian journalism is, in great part, a bunch of self-interested arse. No. Make that self-interested frequently racist arse. The depictions of Greste as the victim not of coercive Western policy but of Egyptian primitives came easily to a group of people who like to think of themselves as brave. The story here was “You Just Can’t Trust Those Foreigners” and “Aren’t You Glad We Tell the Truth in a Civilised Country”.

If you were reading Australian press at the time of Greste’s confinement, you’d only conclude those brown people were to blame.

If you are reading Australian press right now, at the time of Julian Assange’s internment, you’d only conclude that the man got himself into all that trouble.

As I write, almost six years to the hour from Assange’s application to Ecuador for political asylum, the “journalism” of Four Corners plays to a national audience. Ferguson has promoted the speculation around interference by Russia in the last US election as “the story of the century”.

How is this the story even of a particularly slow month in Australia? First, US, and European, media is knocking itself out explaining the defeat of Hillary Clinton by a divisive and evil empire. If you’re Still With Her, you have a global oversupply of not just stories but entire media conglomerates to persuade you that the second least popular presidential candidate in US election history lost for reasons other than her failure to visit or give a visible shit about the voters in flyover states.

Even those who work on reputable, award-winning programs like Four Corners are now wont to publicly endorse things that we should only say at the pub.

FFS, Four Corners. The only compelling evidence to date that links “Russia”—not, in fact, a synonym for Putin—to involvement in the 2016 campaign comes to us from a social media sales department. A reported $100,000 was spent by possibly Russian persons on distribution of very poor propaganda on Facebook. Many, many millions more were spent by nominees Clinton and Trump, so just how some pic of the Democratic nominee with photoshopped devil horns turned it all around is anybody’s guess.

Anybody’s, but a journalist’s. Even those who work on reputable, award-winning programs like Four Corners are now wont to publicly endorse things that we should only say at the pub. The printed sentiment “Assange is Putin’s bitch” was retweeted by the program’s executive producer Sally Neighbour following Sarah Ferguson’s interview with Hillary Clinton. A failed presidential candidate selling her book and the falsehood that The Russians had “hacked” an election.

You may not concur that such journalism is a crime. You may even consider it persuasive, crucial to the unfolding of this century and entirely justified in its overuse of a malevolent synthesiser soundtrack. You may be too young or too forgetful to recall that such histrionics were once the work of programs like Today Tonight or Hard Copy. You may even enjoy dramatic re-enactments of Real Life Events that never were as entertainment.

You may not, however, sincerely believe that “journalism is not a crime” and also sincerely believe that the criminalisation of WikiLeaks’ founder makes perfect sense. Not, unless, you’re thinking with the depth of many Australian journalists.

Julian Assange is not a criminal. He is no longer wanted for questioning on sexual assault charges by Swedish authorities. He was not charged with sexual assault. Swedish authorities requested in 2013 that Britain drop the case for extradition. British authorities did not agree to abandon this until 2017. British authorities, however, uphold the warrant that relates to the questioning in which Swedish authorities have no interest. This year, a British judge refused a request for overturning the warrant. Former Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis suggests a possible conflict of interest by that judge, and all the while, US authorities make it very clear that they intend to put Assange before other judges. Former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Assange’s organisation a “hostile” spy agency.

But, Wikileaks is a publication. Julian Assange is a journalist. Journalism is not a crime, right?

Greste describes what he saw in Egypt. Assange publishes unredacted and always verified documents that describe what we cannot see in Western power. You may recall, perhaps, that once you championed the revelations about Western power he made possible. You may now have read one too many shallow non analyses about “Putin’s bitch” to believe there is anything deceptive about Western power at all.

Julian Assange is not a criminal. Julian Assange is a journalist. Julian Assange is an Australian who has been, in the judgement of the United Nations, arbitrarily detained for six years, almost to the hour. And if you’ve found a way to celebrate, excuse or explain this to yourself, perhaps you have what it takes to serve the delusions of Australian journalism.

45 responses to “Julian Assange is a journalist, not Putin’s bitch

  1. Your defense of this, at best, useful idiot, at worst, a traitor to democracy shows a complete lack of understanding of even the basic fundamentals of journalistic practices. Giant data dumps of valuable information without the slightest regards for the blowback that would impact non-combatants or even people who had no choice but to cooperate for multiple reasons is reckless and by Assange’s own admission, something he doesn’t care about. When he gets kicked out the embassy and run to ground, you will how fast he sets up shop in Russa.

  2. Thank you for shedding light on how many Australian journalists who claim to believe “journalism is not a crime”, allow the false empire serving smear and legal abuse of power against Jullian Assange blind them. They join the anti Assange media hysteria forgetting that when journalist Assange is persecuted for being a journalist all journalists and the free press are at risk. These anti-Assange ‘journalists’ can no longer claim they support the legal idea that “journalism is not a crime.”

    1. I am wondering what is wrong for the citizen to know and have access on what the government is doing on our behalf. Are we not mature enough to handle the truth?

  3. Yes good grief Four Corners. That may be seen one day as a key step in the loss of its long term reputation.Is the host looking for a commercial job?

  4. What rubbish. Assange is not a journalist. His Wikileaks were fascinating but he lacked the experience, wisdom or context to make sense of what he had. And that is what good journalism is about. Imparting information whike lending your learned take on it to add context and perspective. Which is what you attempt to do Helen, though am yet to learn much from you. You’re big on opinion and unsubstantiated pronouncements but on information? Nah.

    1. Outvoted unfortunately buddy. “Unsubstantiated pronouncements”? She references every assertion that she makes unlike your own gratuitous nay say.

      1. Yes you are right, Irritated has to read carefully again Helen’s excellent article and get himself familiarized with the Freedom of Press and free speech concepts.

  5. You have read my thoughts on the subject of Assange, Australian journalist’s and Hillary bloody whats her name and Sarah and 4 bloody corners… well done.

  6. Hi Helen,

    I agree with your sentiments. Though for me Julian Assange fuked the greens over, particularly Scott Ludlam – who was the only Australian Politician championing his cause. Then Assange ran in the federal election against the Greens, who promptly stopped being an active outspoken supporter.

    Bad move – but not of course worthy of a 6 year sentence.

    But what is the solution – to stay indefinitely? Surely its best to have the debate about journalistic freedoms if he ever does go to court. Also didn’t the mainstream media publish his stuff?

  7. Thank you Helen!
    As you correctly said Julian Assange is a journalist. Journalism is not a crime. All he did was in the name of saving our western democracy.
    Assange deserves to be free and be awarded with the Nobel Price, isn’t it?

  8. Another long-focus ripper, HR. Assange’s plight is the great wilful blind spot in the western liberal media’s narcissistic mirror-licking love affair with itself.

    Am presuming you have pretty much no friends* in the meeja at all nowadays, btw? Worst predicaments for a writer to be lumbered with…

    * No, them Crikey misfits don’t count. Dysfunctional sociopaths, the lot.

  9. Thanks, Helen: I agree with every word you have written here – but especially (if there can be degrees of agreement) with what you say about the heroic Julian Assange. I suspect our pusillanimous politicians here are fearing the day their own complicity in his imprisonment comes into the light of day. And well they should. Or their ugliness is something we have come to expect of politicians. Keep up the good work, HR.

  10. Nice to see some strong and positive comments on Julian Assange. SHAME on the “Australian gubmint” of do-nothing fools and porns of witches and black foreigners…

  11. Give it a rest. “Assange publishes unredacted and always verified documents that describe what we cannot see in Western power.” Always verified? What does that mean? Yes he accessed — or largely other people took the risk to access — devastating and shameful material… which he then indiscriminately ejaculated with no thought to the safety and wellbeing of agents, informants etc. The best work done by journalists who did the exhausting grunt work and verification and making responsible judgement calls. Assange is a hacker, a faded love object of the liberal elite (which I more or less belong to by default), a pretty speechmaker and a cad.

    1. What is the difference on what Assange has published and The New York Times and The Washington Post newspapers published the classified Pentagon Papers hacked by Mr Daniel Ellsberg in 1971? Is it a democracy principle to hide the truth about the government operations from their own people. I believe is not what our forefathers have envisaged when they approved the Fist Amendment.

    1. Ummm… aren’t you just quoting the UK media? There was no mention of rape anywhere in the ‘experimental’ inditements by the prosecutor. The translation was ‘sex by surprise’ – but being a dick head is not actually a crime.

      1. thank-you jane and helen for writing and posting this.
        i have always remembered that the accusations were dropped immediately.
        i believe ja has been fitted up . I believe it’s convenient to accuse him. it’s distraction. a story. it’s fake r-pe by a bunch of people pointing fingers.
        i believe ja is innocent of these accusations and the accusations were dropped.

        it is corruption of the highest sort when allegations are re-brought up with no new evidence. marianne ny has a lot to answer for-she comitted crimes by doing this.

        do real r-pist get that level of media attention ? no. they should be shamed.but it does not happen. on the massive level.
        do real r_pists get hounded and their top level QC lawyers get hounded in, unfounded, illegal ways in english courts by shoddy swedish lawyers who defended pinochet?

  12. All our governments, regardless of party or social leaning have failed freedom of press and Australian journalism by refusing to formally adresss the outcomes of the Balibo 5 inquest with that respective government. Why should anyone other a small minority start to give a crap now?
    Our successive governments have sent the message to the rest of the world that if a regime does not like the messaging, then any journo in their area of control (be it legal or by force) is fair game. Unfortunately they also don’t teach our kids these events in school or use them as case studies as it would really highlight what puppets (and muppets) our ruling classes are made of. Keep up the the good Razer, I may never always agree with your message but always appreciate the opportunity to challenge my thoughts on my own position.

  13. Interesting that Assange i accused of exposing and endangering various spies and agents. Will the same people please also complain about the 1 hundreds of thousands of innocents murdered by the coalition of the willing. By the way have another look at the collateral damage Wikilesks release showing has a dozen men and children being callously murdered. Give us a break please!

    1. Even ABC News in the US in a 2017 article on Vault 7 stayed Wikileaks redacted names of individuals where there might be any possible question of harm.

  14. Good job, Helen. A couple of separate but related subjects interwoven here. First, I agree that Four Corners reached absolute rock-bottom with this so-called series. Words like “vile, putrid propaganda” come to mind. Every lie and unproven allegation put out by the Clinton camp over the last 18 months rolled together into one series. So thoroughly awful I could not bear to watch it, and turned it off. I’d even hazard a guess that the DNC and Clinton Foundation paid for it. In my eyes, Sarah Ferguson, and for that matter, much of our ABC news and public affairs programming have lost all credibility.

    Regarding Julian Assange, a couple of days ago was the sixth anniversary of his imprisonment in London, and unless I missed it, was barely mentioned in our local so-called media. As usual, one has to go to alternative sources on the internet to get the story. Here for example are a couple of links which cover the rally in Sydney which was held on his behalf.

    The tribulations of Julian Assange remind me of the persecution of that other great Australian journalist, the late Wilfred Burchett. His autobiography “Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist” should be required reading for anyone aspiring to journalism these days.

  15. Interesting comparison of the government’s differing responses to Greste and Assange, Helen. As you so perspicaciously point out, one was held by a bunch of clearly suspect brown people while the other has offended white people like us, so clearly must be in the wrong. I was disappointed that Julia Gillard was so quick to throw Assange to the dogs and things haven’t changed much since. Assange will never get any support from the LNP — given its constant use of the so-called threat to security to make ever more stringent assaults on our prrsonal freedoms and privacy — but on past performances might not get any from a Labor government either. The withdrawal of the charges against him should have ended the matter but, of course, Britain will do anything not to antagonise the US which still wants to prosecute/persecute Assange.

  16. I disagree, Helen.
    Assange and wikileaks potentially fulfils a crucially important niche in an open and democratic environment. Hidden dark secrets sometimes need to be brought to light.
    Assange isn’t the journalist doing the digging, however but an easy recipient.
    He is not neutral, as a journalist should be, but follows agendas. His selective release of emails hacked from climate scientists some 4 or 5 years ago was used selectively to discredit serious scientific study.
    I would feel more supportive towards him if he behaved like a journalist, with real standards.

  17. I agree but I really feel for you Helen. You keep writing this stuff and you still get numpties doing the false equivalence line (‘he’s a sexual predator so he can’t be a journalist’) and other ‘justifications’ (‘he’s an egomaniac and not quite right so he can’t be a journalist’). I mean, in this country we call breakfast tv hosts ‘journalists’ so I’m not sure how these people feel they can call Karl Stefanovic a journalist (now there’s an egotistical odd male (he wore the same clothes for a year – thats gross)) but quibble about Assange.

    Sure the dump of Podesta emails might not have been particularly illuminating. And sure, the gloss has worn off him since the original Wikileak dumps of ten years ago. But that is exactly what the charges and personal attacks were designed to do – if you can’t attack the facts, attack the person and then no one cares about the veracity of what they’re saying (the Ferguson 4 Corners ‘expose’ being a case in point).

    I don’t know how you haven’t given yourself an acquired brain injury from bashing your head against the wall of so much stupid. Please look after yourself. And know that there are people who agree with what you’re saying. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is more important to like the messenger and their Personal Brand, than be concerned with facts and information.

  18. Helen, I have to agree with you on the Four Corners ‘Russia Interference’ story. I heard Ferguson interviewed yesterday and the gist was that she agreed that there was no hard evidence of any ‘collusion’ of Putin’s agents with the Trump campaign.

    In fact her take was that the Russians made contact with the Trump characters with the very purpose of making it look like there was a Russian conspiracy of substance against Hillary with the aim of seeding chaos and discord on both sides after the election campaign.

    Have the Trump White House endlessly diverted refuting such claims and the Democrats and the liberal media maintaining the rage in a self-defeating frenzy of tail chasing.

    Sounds like ‘disinformation’ right out of Putin’s KGB playbook.

    Remember that Putin is conducting a new version of the cold war, and in any war, the truth is so precious that it must be elaborately wrapped in layers of imaginative lies.

  19. Correction : Wikileaks WAS a publication, it is now Assange’s misused personal trumpet for whomever pays him the most. Wikileaks was all about transparency and open sharing of information yet now Assange refuses to come clean on his Russian connections, his full intentional role in assisting Russia with interfering with another country’s democratic election and his ongoing relationship with another Putin puppet, Nigel Farage. Where’s his desire for openness and transparency now? Assange is about as much of a persecuted journalist as I am an astronaut on Mars…

    1. The reason the US is so perplexed by Assange & Wikileaks is they have no price, can’t be brought at any price by any government or corporation. Wikileaks is entirely funded by its supporters which is why their only option is to smear Assange as rapist and Wikileaks as Russian tool to discredit both. It’s sad that all common sense and decency has gone out the window because the media and public so focused on having a woman elected President of the US without caring what kind of Peron that woman is and always will be.

  20. Last time I checked, journalists did NOT have what can only be described as “diplomatic immunity”( in Assange’s case the pending allegations of rape and sexual coercion claimed by two Swedish women). Cardinal Mindszenty was a t least fleeing a tyrannical regime whereas Sweden is a model democracy! Julian Assange is no more a “political prisoner” than EDL leader Tommy Robinson!

  21. The three hours of well-resourced drivel propping up a xenophobic conspiracy theory is lowest moment in FOUR CORNERS history. It was basically the James Clapper show: the very same James Clapper whom Donald Rumsfeld put in charge of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in the lead up toe Iraq War, who could have saved 2 million Iraqi lives by pointing out there were no WMDs but preferred to adhere to the Rumsfeldian dictum: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” A year after the war began, by which time it was obvious there were no WMDs, Mr. Clapper then fabricated up a story that Saddam Hussein had smuggled the WMDs to Syria – a lie so implausible even US Intelligence couldn’t entertain it with a straight face. Yes, the very same James Clapper who perjured himself to Congress in 2013, inspiring Edward Snowden to turn whistleblower. Yes, FOUR CORNERS spent three hours giving us insight into the deluded mind of a chief warmonger, Clapper, but I don’t think they meant to.

  22. Who the fuck knows what the truth is these days.? But wtf Helen?? go to Russia go to fuckin Egypt and see how a journsist is treated there. Maybe end up dead and thats the truth .

    1. What makes you think journalists are treated badly in Russia? There’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation around. If there’s a specific case you have in mind I’d love to hear about it, but from what I’ve seen journalists in Russia can say whatever they want and are not persecuted. They definitely aren’t locked up in a small room without having been charged with anything.
      Honestly, take the time to research a bit and you might be surprised.

  23. Assange is a political prisoner just as the refugees on Manus and Nauru are. His actions while incarcerated must be seen in the light of his diminished mental and physical health. It is a dark dark path we are on. He was hung out to dry as I recall by The Guardian and New York Times. I’m glad I didn’t see 4 Corners, ABC political coverage has been on the nose for some time.

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