‘The best of journalism relies on whistleblowers’
RT:It’s been two years now, he’s been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy, how much longer do you think Assange will remain in that diplomatic limbo?
John Pilger: Well, I don’t know, as long as the British government continues to ignore its obligations under international law to do with political asylum. Britain last month, or I think it was in March, amended the law that meant that Julian Assange would be extradited to Sweden. So if he went to the court now, he wouldn’t be extradited. The whole thing is farcical and that’s what the whole Swedish episode is. It’s like a red herring.
It’s rather grotesque actually because really the main game of this, or the main crime that Julian Assange has committed, is that WikiLeaks revealed to the world the extent of United States’ war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and it revealed numerous conspiracies by the US against governments throughout the world. They didn’t like this. They didn’t like that obviously.
This siege of Assange in the embassy, and that’s what it is, is his punishment, and it shouldn’t be so. He’s been given political asylum under international law and the British government ought to respect international law and give him safe passage out of that embassy to Ecuador. That’s what this is really about. If that doesn’t happen, what he faces, if he leaves, what he faces is the prospect of the kind of sentence that Chelsea Manning has had, 35-years in an American hell hole.
RT:Is there more to the story of the UK not letting him come out? Is there more to him just being Assange, a whistleblower, is there more to this?
JP: Is there more to it? Well yes of course there’s more to it. As I’ve said Julian Assange is effectively imprisoned in that embassy because of WikiLeaks’ disclosure, historic disclosure of the way our world has been run: with war crimes by major powers, with conspiracies against governments.
The whole situation in Sweden is almost a farce, right at the beginning of that the Swedish prosecutor in Stockholm threw out the case against Assange, there was no case to answer. He waited around in Stockholm to answer any allegations. In the UK his lawyers have told the Swedish authorities that he will answer any questions. First he offered to do it in Scotland Yard, then the embassy, the Swedish embassy, now the Ecuadorian embassy. He has made every offer possible.
The whole idea that he is evading being questioned by the Swedish authorities is just absurd. It is absurd because this has really nothing to do with this. This has been about the WikiLeaks, about the threat that Assange and somebody that he helped, and WikiLeaks helped, to escape, to get into Russia, and that is Edward Snowden.
We know that last month under the freedom of information search that the FBI has opened a full prosecution case, a massive case, of probably 50,000 pages of files in it, which they intend, if they can get their hands on him to prosecute Assange. And to prosecute him under a law of 1917 that does not even apply. He has committed no crime in the US and what they are trying to do is a crime against the American constitution.
RT:And do you think the Assange's fate is putting whistleblowers from speaking out?
JP: Yes. Whistleblowing has always been a very dangerous occupation. Often you are really unloved for telling the truth. But journalism, the best of journalism has always relied on whistleblowers. In my own career that has been the main source of truth telling – whistleblowers.
The public have a right to hear honest voices telling us how governments are really run, what they really say in private when they say something very different in public. The kind of life and death conspiracies that mean many people in great danger of death throughout the world. We have the right to know these things.
I think what we see in Julian Assange, and we saw it in Edward Snowden as we saw it in Chelsea Manning – extraordinary courage. Instead of a kind of ridiculous vilification that comes from a media, which WikiLeaks have shamed for not doing its job properly, there should be extraordinary praise for someone like Assange.