Alice Walker: Biden should finish Trump’s battle on the press. Drop the Julian Assange case
When President Joe Biden took workplace on the heels of a contentious election and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the U.S. Capitol, many Americans anticipated a return to normalcy.
Gone have been the embarrassing, unqualified Donald Trump sycophants and truth-evading gaslighters. Or so we have been led to imagine.
Almost halfway via Biden’s first time period, I’m disillusioned by his failure to rebuke one of the vital shameful components of Trump’s legacy: the battle on journalism.
Do not be fooled by Biden’s persona. The White House’s extra cordial relationship with the press conceals its continuation of the Trump administration’s try and criminalize newsgathering and publishing.
The Trump administration’s choice to prosecute WikiLeaks writer Julian Assange was the brainchild of authoritarian conservatives like Mike Pompeo and Jeff Sessions. They wore their disdain for press freedom proudly, declaring that Assange had no First Amendment rights and stepping up efforts to crack down on whistleblowers.
For his function in publishing the Chelsea Manning leaks, which have been coated by main media retailers all over the world, Assange was hit with 18 federal counts that carry a potential prison sentence of 175 years. Of these counts, 17 are for receiving and publishing info in violation of the Espionage Act. Such charges are unprecedented. “No journalist — self-described or otherwise — had ever been criminally charged for disclosing government secrets,” Deanna Paul noted in The Washington Post.
What did Assange do to impress the Trump administration’s ire? In 2010 and 2011, he embarrassed the U.S. authorities by exposing truths about civilian casualties, battle crimes and abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama-Biden administration was in energy then, and set its sights on Assange. But officers had the knowledge and restraint to conclude that prosecuting Assange would create a harmful precedent referred to as “The New York Times problem.” Simply put, there isn’t any technique to prosecute Assange with out criminalizing the identical newsgathering and publishing practices used at The Times, The Post and each different news outlet.
Surely, cheap leaders similar to Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland wouldn’t permit the prosecution — condemned by journalism and human rights teams all over the world — to go ahead. Right?
The Biden crew inherited this debacle. Instead of abandoning Trump’s battle on journalism, they’ve continued it. They have chosen the politics of “nothing will fundamentally change,” as a substitute of correcting the injustices of a rogue administration.
President Biden and Attorney General Garland ought to do the appropriate factor: Drop the Assange case and make it clear that reporting and publishing — even when it makes the federal government look dangerous — is significant to democratic life. We can’t lecture the remainder of the world on freedom and human rights whereas attempting to extradite somebody for publishing inconvenient truths about us.
Assange just isn’t even a U.S. citizen, neither is he accused of committing felony acts whereas within the United States. He is accused of receiving truthful information from a source, and sharing that information with the public. How would Americans really feel if U.S. journalists have been detained in international nations, with Chinese or Russian authorities demanding their extradition for publishing so-called “government secrets”?
The press has the flexibility, and duty, to stress the Biden administration. Assange has languished in a most safety jail in London for greater than three years, combating extradition. The chilling effect on investigative reporters is already tragic. It can be unfathomable if Assange is placed on trial.
How would newspaper editorial boards react if a CNN reporter have been prosecuted for working with a supply to show corruption on the Pentagon? How would they’ve responded if President Richard Nixon had locked up Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for assembly Deep Throat in a parking storage? Why aren’t extra editorial boards echoing The New York Times and condemning this case as an assault “at the heart of the First Amendment?”
We should all demand that Biden be greater than a kinder, gentler Trump. A full-throated rejection of Trumpism means ending the battle on journalism, recognizing that the Constitution protects those that reveal uncomfortable truths, and dropping the case in opposition to Julian Assange.
Alice Walker is an activist, novelist, and poet. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for The Color Purple.
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