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11 Apr, 2019 14:11

Assange critics and ‘journalists’ having field day on Twitter after whistleblower’s arrest

Assange critics and ‘journalists’ having field day on Twitter after whistleblower’s arrest

Mainstream media journalists and critics of whistleblower Julian Assange have been gloating and joking on Twitter since his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Thursday, proving love of free speech can be very selective.

Political correspondent for the UK Independent newspaper Ashley Cowburn was one of the first in with a jab, tweeting an image of Assange when he first entered the Ecuadorian Embassy alongside one taken during his arrest, with the comment “political journalists pre and post-Brexit.”

Perhaps wisely, Cowburn later deleted the tweet which UK media watchdog Media Lens called “brutal.”

The Guardian’s chief political correspondent also felt it was time for a Brexit joke, tweeting that since Assange’s internet access had been cut off last March, “he probably thinks we’ve left the EU.”

Head of ‘investigative journalism’ website Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, made light of Assange’s arrest too, tweeting that the cleaners in the embassy would be happy to “get their broom cupboard back.”

Former BBC Newsnight and Financial Times journalist Chris Cook also had a moment to be proud of on Twitter when he compared Assange, whose health has been ravaged after nearly seven years stuck inside the embassy without proper medical care, to a character from British comedy show ‘Only Fools and Horses.’

Politicos got in on the action too, with Neera Tanden, head of so-called liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, tweeting that Assange supporters, or “cultists” as she put it, were defending an “agent of a proto fascist state.” Tanden’s tweet was in reference to the highly original conspiracy theory that Assange has been working for the Russian government.

In line with that conspiracy, well-known Twitter screecher Louise Mensch, who was for a while enthusiastically embraced by mainstream media, tweeted that watching Russian media cover the event of Assange’s arrest was “glorious.”

Some media folk had slightly more moderate reactions, saying it was possible to not like Assange, but to also acknowledge that prosecuting him would be “extremely dangerous and troubling” and have “incredibly worrying implications” for free speech and journalism.

The generally gleeful reactions were noticed by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote on Twitter that those celebrating Assange’s arrest were showing themselves to be “allies” of the most “most extremist elements of the Trump administration” who are trying to “criminalize” reporting on classified documents and exposure of war crimes.

Journalist Mark Ames commented that establishment media had built up and profited off WikiLeaks, but then "turned on Assange with shameless hive mind efficiency."

In a much-needed injection of reality, fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden reminded journalists covering the arrest that United Nations experts have repeatedly urged the UK to honor its human rights obligations and let Assange leave the embassy freely — something which hasn’t seemed to concern British journalists covering the case.

US journalist Michael Tracey also noted that Trump supporters who claimed to be fans of WikiLeaks while it was releasing documents related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president would be revealed as “outright frauds” if they supported his arrest.

Intercept reporter Ryan Grim said Assange’s arrest would be a “real test” for the media and wondered if they could “separate their personals feelings” toward him “from the question of whether it is okay to prosecute a publisher for publishing?”

So far, it looks like they’re failing miserably.

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