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8 Jun, 2018 07:50

Free speech is dead: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange deserved Nobel Peace Prize, not the loss of liberty

Free speech is dead: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange deserved Nobel Peace Prize, not the loss of liberty

Western countries speak of the need for democracy and free speech around the world while restricting citizens’ access to information and silencing the messengers.

Nowadays the media is a form of education for many, especially when it comes to understanding politics. Therefore, people believe what they see and hear even if it’s only half the truth. I have always stated that the media is the fourth branch of government because it moves public opinion and every day we see more proof of that. US society, as well as British society, has made choices about which kinds of speech to permit and which to forbid in an attempt to silence discussion on specific topics.

In 2010 Hillary Clinton cited President Obama during her speech stating that “the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become”. She then went on to say that “information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.”

What she didn’t expect was that information networks such as WikiLeaks would uncover incriminating information that not only compromised her credibility but also that of many others. First Amendment to the US constitution guarantees the rights of free expression and action that are fundamental to democratic government. These rights include freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

The First Amendment prohibits Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. The First Amendment should be able to protect a right to publish information on unlawful government programs especially when the existence of a particular program is a matter of significant public concern. Because of the Espionage Act, there’s no way for third party to “lawfully” acquire classified national security information that they are unauthorized to possess.

Julian Assange and his organization WikiLeaks have provoked controversy over the years with the release of compromising emails that shed light, and confirmed speculation from many, on government officials conspiring against its own citizens.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a speech delivered on April 13 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, insisted that disclosures about what the CIA and intelligence community are doing is a threat to the safety of Americans. He then went on to address WikiLeaks stating "We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us." What exactly was Pompeo referring to when he said"against us”.

On the contrary, thanks to WikiLeaks, Americans are now better informed. The continuous actions taken against Assange is by default proof that many are afraid and scared as to what yet remains to be exposed. In suggesting that Americans’ right to free speech depends on whether or not the topic is aligned with the government's agenda and interests, Pompeo, like many lawmakers, have been waiting for the day in which they can openly control what constitutes "real news" as opposed to, what President Trump calls, "fake news".

What many people seem to have forgotten is that previous cases, including that of 1971 New York Times v US, proved that freedom of expression always gets priority and that the Nixon Administration couldn’t prevent the New York Times in publishing classified Pentagon documents. 

The court has held, in certain circumstances, that the First Amendment protects public disclosure of confidential information applying what’s called “Pickering Balances” to assess when public interest in disclosure outweighs the government’s interests in preserving confidentiality. Therefore, to question whether or not WikiLeaks is a news source or if Julian Assange is a journalist is irrelevant when taking into account the factual information that he has provided regarding the corruption that has been taking place and continues to occur worldwide.

WikiLeaks records have exposed transcripts from Clinton's past paid speeches, in addition to deliberations about Clinton Foundation conflicts of interest along with incriminating emails that Hillary Clinton exchanged from a private server during her tenure as United States Secretary of State. Among the data which she attempted to destroy, prior to turning over the server to authorities, were a series of emails which expose DNC efforts to favor Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primary.

WikiLeaks defines itself as a “whistleblower protection intermediary” so that it safeguards its sources, and those of the media that redistribute its facts, from any kind of repercussions. In the 1993’s Bartnicki v Vopper Supreme Court case decision, Justice John Paul Stevens stated: "A stranger's illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern."

Yet, the United States continues bullying Ecuador's government over its decision to continue granting Julian Assange asylum. What is interesting is that when a country grants someone asylum it is understood that the rules that apply to every other citizen of that country should also apply to that person. I don't see anyone else’s internet being cut off in Ecuador.

As a result of continued US pressure on the Ecuadorian government, President Moreno has stated that Julian Assange can only stay so long as he avoids voicing his political opinions on Twitter. According to President Moreno, Ecuador has suspended Julian Assange's access to communication systems since March because the conditions of his asylum prevent him from speaking about politics or intervening in the politics of other countries.

There is a great concern because as we all know that the US and Western countries routinely interfere in the affairs of other nations under the pretense of preserving the freedoms of democracy. What freedom of speech or whose notion of democracy do we speak of when the UK government is silencing and jailing British activist Tommy Robinson for "breaching peace" or claiming he violated "reporting restrictions" regarding a court case?

Robinson was silenced by a modern Western country for being an outspoken critic of mass Islamic immigration to Europe. This wouldn’t be the first time the British government has done so, the UK has had a history of banning commentators, journalists and politicians from entering the country.

Does that now give those sovereign countries the same right to take all necessary measures and precautions to defend itself from US foreign aggressions? What remains mind-boggling is the fact that US government officials would much rather play the blame game to try and punish the messenger rather than focusing on the messages that were delivered.

Julian Assange did humanity a favor by revealing the truth and one would think that in turn he would have received a formal pardon, appointed to the position as head of the CIA and/or nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, according to the United Nations, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was subjected to various forms of deprivation of liberty by being "arbitrarily detained" by the British government.

Souraya Faas, for RT

Souraya Faas is a former US presidential candidate and a Republican candidate for Florida's 26th Congressional District

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.