Julian Assange: The Price of Being a Western Dissident

Julian Assange is doing humanity a favour by exposing through the US Embassy Cables that “Oil motivates U.S. policy more than fighting terrorists” and that the killing and torturing of tens of thousands of civilians by the US and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Iraq War Logs and Afghanistan War Logs is evidence of war crimes.

However, to Assange’s dismay, as a western dissident, he does not enjoy the soft-power of being a Chinese dissident. The “free” world politicians fail to acknowledge the nobility of his work in exposing human rights violations and war crimes committed by NATO and the US. President Obama described his act as a “deplorable documents dump”; former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich believed that he should be “ treated as an enemy combatant”; Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called him a “high-tech terrorist”; while Sarah Palin wanted him to be “hunted down like al-Qaeda.” Other politicians including some mainstream media “pundits openly call for his death.”

As an instant response, WikiLeaks has been blocked from being accessed by federal employees of the US. It is the same in Germany.

In Canada, censors blocked his WikiLeaks website; Interpol issued an arrest warrant and the key advisor to Canada’s PM Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, called for his assassination by drone.

Facebook reportedly deleted his WikiLeaks page together with his 30,000 fans; US government funded press watchdog (press freedom group), Reporters Without Borders accused him of “irresponsible.”

His sources of finance have been blocked by western corporations such as VISA, MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America. As a result, WikiLeaks was forced to shut down briefly in 2010 due to their inability to plug the funding gap.

We can hardly find the mainstream western media showing any zest in promoting him as a human rights campaigner or press freedom fighter. In fact, as The Australian has observed, “the editors turn on him”; The Guardian noticed that “more American journalists back away from WikiLeaks and Assange.” An opinion piece in the Washington Post called for his prosecution and reform of the espionage law.

If you trust the CNN poll, the American people appear to have abandoned him as well, with 77% opposing his release of the US government documents.

Assange’s legal team complain that they have been watched and are also experiencing other forms of pressure from Washington.

In Australia, Assange has definitely been deserted by his mother country. The Australian government not only failed to show interest in defending his basic human rights and promoting press freedom, the PM, Julia Gillard, joined the US in condemning him and alleged that he acted illegally despite being unable to “say what law WikiLeaks has broken.” The Australian government has on a couple of occasions threatened to arrest him, in spite of the knowledge that Assange has been badly treated in the UK since 2010. His personal freedom has been deprived by an electronic tag, and he was held under virtual house arrest, after having spent nine days in solitary confinement in a London prison for a crime that he has not been charged with — in relation to allegations that he emphatically denies. Assange has basically received no assistance from the Australian government, according to his mother.

An article in Crikey rightly points out that, Julian Assange would be better off smuggling weapons in Baghdad.

In fact, reports reveal that the Australian government at one stage contemplated the idea of cancelling Assange’s passport; his Australian lawyer, Jennifer Robinson was once reportedly prevented from boarding a flight back to Australia at Heathrow airport citing the excuse that she was on a “watch list” and would need official approval to return to her native Australia.

Assange is a Western dissident, he does not enjoy the soft-power of being a Chinese one. His cause may be noble and it moved a Russian to suggest that Assange deserves a Noble Peace prize. However, the forces that determine his fate are powerful and merciless. He may end up like Bradley Manning in a notorious US military prison, stripped naked every night, held in isolation, and suffering from harassment and sleep-deprivation in accordance with the CIA interrogation manual. Some UN officials may occasionally comment about his treatment as “cruel and degrading,” most corporate media will not report such commentaries anyway.

Manning’s trial by the “free” world will be in secrecy; his lawyer is reportedly struggling to have the government documents released so as to work out ways to defend him. Apparently, people who are concerned about his well being are also struggling to gain access to him.

The Australian government is fully aware of the mistreatment of Assange by the “free” world including the British and Swedish authorities, but Assange has been left alone to fend for himself.

Are human rights and freedom of press universal western values?

Wei Ling Chua is an accredited INS and ANFS Freelance Journalist. He is also the author of Tiananmen Square 'Massacre’? and Democracy: What the west can learn from China. He can be reached at: wchua62@gmail.com. Twitter: OcastJournalist. Read other articles by Wei Ling, or visit Wei Ling's website.