DC Edit | Assange: A lesson for world

Mr Julian Assange, journalist and whistleblower who published reams of secret documents that were classified information to expose the wrongdoings of a superpower in war, including on how it killed civilians in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a free man who is back Down Under, though convicted under US law.

A plea deal was cut 14 years after Mr Assange ran into trouble but was seen as a hero by the liberals because he revealed secrets that Washington wished to hide and riled the US Establishment into hounding a publisher it saw as a dangerous anarchist.

The power of the state to prosecute those it classifies as criminals or enemies has, however, not ended despite the ordeals that the publisher of classified information faced in a unique battle.

Political scenarios by which Mr Donald Trump could be President of the United States and Mr Keir Starmer leading a Labour government in the UK may have led to the hastening of this longstanding cause celebre towards a conclusion that may prove popular with the people at large.

The fact is the enormity of state power, even in an old and avowedly model democracy, has not changed. That was always apparent in the ordeals that Mr Assange faced, in self-exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and, when forced out of there under Mr Trump’s prompting, in virtual solitary confinement in the high security Belmarsh prison in London where for 24 hours a day he had only his books for company.

Mr Assange argued that the First Amendment and the Espionage Act are in contradiction with each other but that it would be difficult to win such a case given the circumstances. The fact is the same model of democracy will long survive an embarrassing challenge that came in the WikiLeaks exposes, some of which touched the Indian political spectrum too as private conversations among diplomats became public knowledge.

Mr Assange may be Australian where there is no constitutional right to free speech and press freedom does not exist to the extent it may in the US, but his sacrifices to fight for absolute freedom of speech will not go unappreciated.

It is moot whether protection of accountability journalism has been enhanced or watered down in the longrunning Assange saga, but the showing up of how state power can be and is often misused will hold a lesson for the modern world.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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