Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Julian Assange’

Why Assange Lost My Support

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th August, 2012

The British government, in common with most of its other European and North American counterparts, disapproved of Wikileaks, as they saw the phenomenon as undermining the way the world goes about its diplomatic business. As a journalist, I took a contrary view and thought that this enforced openness taught ordinary people a lot about how states do their business, officially and unofficially. I applauded the Guardian’s publication of Wikileaks material and the way that Editor Alan Rusbridger handled the whole affair. So for a while I was quite positive about Julian Assange, though I never saw him as a knight in shining white armour. But the allegations against him of sexual asault in Sweden concerned me, as did his resistance to extradition to help with investigations there. There is no reason to think Sweden would accede to a further extradition request, this time from the United States, relating to Wikileaks, if the matter concerned could lead to a potential death sentence under US law, though his most strident supporters claim the opposite. Anyway, I thought it was brave and rather noble of a group of wealthy or influential friends and supporters of his to put up bail for him so he could live in relative comfort as a houseguest at a country house rather than in jail while the wheels of the British law ground. But when he jumped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, thereby dumping his friends and supporters in the shit and leaving them heavily out of pocket, I lost patience with him. Now he and his claque — including Ecuador’s President — are championing him as some sort of martyr for free speech, which he is not; his application for asylum was frankly absurd and he has become a self-publicist, playing to the gallery. There is a martyr in this whole business, however, and that is Bradley Manning, the poor young soldier who leaked a lot of the Wikileaks stuff while he was serving in Iraq. He has been languishing in a US prison, for much of the time in solitary confinement, yet his plight is largely ignored. That is where our sympathies should lie and our campaigning continue — for Manning’s release or at least civilised detention conditions for him.


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Is WikiLeaks a Public Service

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 29th November, 2010

Hillary Clinton and the US State Department are in a state of shock this week, as more than 250,000 ‘secret’ US diplomatic communications provided to WikiLeaks — reportedly by a young American soldier working in Intelligence in Baghdad — are being systematically filleted and published in five leading Western newspapers, including the Guardian. Today’s crop provided a feast for anyone interested in the Middle East, the main revelation being just how (privately) anti-Iran several Gulf Arab rulers are — in fact, some suggested that military action against Tehran’s atomic aspirations might be a necessity. Other things revealed are much more mundane, even funny — though one suspects that some of the diplomats concerned, including in the vast (but soon to be evacuated) US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, lack a sense of humour. Indeed, having met some of them on my regular rounds of the capital’s diplomatic circuit, I know they do. Future instalments of the WikiLeaks State Department trove will touch on things closer to home, such as what the Americans make of Prince Andrew and of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, and perhaps most interestingly, Britain’s new Coalition government and its leaders. But the question has to be asked: is all this unauthorised public communication of material that was meant to be classified (abeit available to about three million Americans who have access to ‘secret’ missives) a harm or a benefit to the common good? Will it cost lives, as Washington states? Or has it enhanced democratic accountability and indeed brought the public closer to the realities of international wheeling and dealing? I agree with Timothy Garton Ash, who argued in the Guardian today that the information revealed will be a huge boon to historians. But it is to journalists and politicians,  too. So even while WikiLeak’s mastermind, the Australian Julian Assange, is being pursued by the Swedish courts over alleged sexual misdemeanours, I say hats off to him and to WikiLeaks. And also to the Guardian, which has got itself a (British) scoop most other major newspapers would (metaphorically) kill for.

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