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Tide of public opinion is turning in Assange’s favor

Corporate media & some politicos who opposed Assange after the 2016 election have radically changed their tune, favorably influencing public opinion after the Espionage Act indictment of the WikiLeak‘s founder, reports Joe Lauria.

by Joe Lauria

The indictment of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act has profoundly affected press coverage of the WikiLeaks founder, with much of the media turning suddenly and decisively in his favor after  years of vilifying him.

The sharp change has also come from some politicians, and significantly, from two Justice Department prosecutors who went public to express their dissent about using the Espionage Act to indict Assange.

To the extent that public opinion matters, the sea-change in coverage could have an effect on the British or Swedish governments’ decision to extradite Assange to the United States to face the charges. 

Part 2 - ‘Profoundly Disturbing’

Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote: 

I find the Trump administration’s use of the Espionage Act against him profoundly disturbing. … Whatever Assange got up to in 2010-11, it was not espionage. … Imagine the precedent if the Trump administration gets away with this. Israel and India have extensive nuclear weapons programmes – each protected by ferocious domestic official secrets acts. Think of the outcry if the Netanyahu or Modi governments attempted to extradite a British or US journalist to face life in jail for writing true things about their nuclear arsenals. 



Assange is accused of trying to persuade a source to disclose yet more secret information. Most reporters would do the same. Then he is charged with behaviour that, on the face of it, looks like a reporter seeking to help a source protect her identity. If that’s indeed what Assange was doing, good for him.” 

The New Yorker‘s Masha Gessen, wrote: “The use of the Espionage Act to prosecute Assange is an attack on the First Amendment. … It stands to reason that an Administration that considers the press an ‘enemy of the people’ would launch this attack. In attacking the media, it is attacking the public.’"

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the Democratic Party booster, who probably had more influence than any commentator in drumming up the Russiagate conspiracy and Assange’s alleged role in it, on Thursday launched into an astounding defense of the imprisoned publisher.  On her program she said: 

The Justice Department today, the Trump administration today, just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange’s side of the ledger. On his side of the fight. Which, I know, is unimaginable. But that is because the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff, and newspapers and magazines and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.

Nick Miller, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, said: 

On the face of it this indictment covers a lot of practices that are standard to investigative journalism: appealing for information, encouraging a source to provide documents that are not publicly available, reporting classified information you believe is in the public interest and the public has a right to know. …It may be that prosecutors can argue Assange was not acting as a journalist. But they would, by doing so, make the line separating journalism from espionage wafer-thin, and much more dangerous to approach, even in the public interest.

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