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First They Came For Julian

While awaiting the decision of his extradition hearing, Julian currently languishes in Belmarsh prison in solitary confinement for exposing numerous U.S and U.K war crimes and other acts of corruption.

The case may split opinion, but punishing Assange and others for bringing to public attention serious violations by our governments is averting our attention away from the bigger picture.

Renegade Inc. host, Ross Ashcroft, met up with independent journalist and political commentator, Richard Medhurst, to discuss restrictions on press freedoms and their implications for journalism worldwide.


Angered by inertia

A few weeks ago, Richard Medhurst and a group of other activists gathered outside the Old Bailey in London during the final day of Julian Assange’s almost three week long extradition hearing. In a powerfully articulate and lucid public speech, Medhurst was scathing, not only of the injustice meted out to Assange, but also the lack of media coverage of the trial which he described as an “abomination” and the lack of public outcry as “shocking.”

The journalist and political commentator posits that the reason for the inertia around the case is not restricted to the corporate media. Their independent counterparts, for example, have also shown a marked lack of interest in Assange’s plight reflecting an indifference to national security and foreign policy issues more broadly.

Another factor relates to the unwillingness on the part of the corporate media to criticise the establishment narrative line of a national security state they are aligned with. A decade long smear campaign against Julian Assange in which he has been characterized as a cyber criminal and a Russian intelligence asset, further highlights the inertia.

The end of journalism

Medhurst asserts that should Julian be extradited to the U.S, he will almost certainly be convicted.

This will mean not only the end of journalistic freedom at home and abroad, but it will also set a new precedent whereby other investigative journalists brave enough to raise their heads above the parapet will likely to be carted off to a U.S dungeon.

We are already witnessing the chilling effect on an independent media who dare to challenge the status quo. Medhurst, for example, highlights the political and media establishment’s Russian disinformation campaign in response to the recent Hunter Biden e mail scandal as an illustration of the deterrent impact on journalists who are prepared to question official narratives.

For independent journalists to be legitimately critical of U.S foreign policy failings is to open them up to claims that they are in service to Vladimir Putin whose alleged omnipotence is an off the scale conspiracy theory.

Nevertheless, it would appear that Washington’s Russia gate narrative shows minimal signs of running out of steam. On the contrary, recent signs suggest that censorship has reached new levels. “They’ve been trying to stop people from retweeting without including texts. They’ve been blocking the New York Post story about Hunter Biden. They just straight up banned the link”, says Medhurst.

Bombing for freedom

Born in Damascus to a Syrian mother and British father, both of whom worked for the UN as peacekeepers, the journalist and political commentator lays much of the blame for the legacy of this censorship on Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winning former president responsible for whitewashing Jihadist terrorism in Syria and bringing much of the middle east into chaos.

Much of the justification for illegal ‘regime change’ wars of aggression initiated by the hegemonic Western imperial powers is that their actions are said to be benign. The historical and ideological context underpinning this White Man’s Burden perspective, can be traced back to the civilizing missions of the late 15th century.

Responsible for bombing ten times as much as George W. Bush and turning two wars into seven despite running on an anti war message as part of the humanitarian interventionism narrative, Obama often talked favourably about ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria – the Western-backed Islamist terrorists who maintain a foothold in the north of the country.

In common with ‘humanitarian’ regime change efforts elsewhere, Medhurst describes the war on Syria as the most propagandized conflict in modern history where money and arms have been pumped into British intelligence-created NGOs like the White Helmets and other Jihadist groups.

Scorched earth

Medhurst contends that the current U.S strategy in Syria is a scorched earth policy:

“They’ve been burning the wheat. They’ve been stealing the oil. They’ve been implementing the Caesar Act sanctions which have caused the currency to go into freefall.”

Medhurst adds that the Syrian infrastructure has been completely decimated, stating that the country has been denied, not only sources of oil revenues, but an ability to be food self-sufficient.

Whether it’s Guantanamo Bay, the destabilization of Syria, the failed NATO mission in Libya or prolonging the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s overriding legacy is one of imperialist military aggression and foreign policy failure.

Medhurst argues that the prerequisite to reining in the kind of democratic deficit that facilitates these illegal acts of state violence and the criminalization of whistleblowers who expose those responsible, is an independent media with teeth.

But it’s equally vital that a politically informed and active citizenship also plays its part:

“When you look back a hundred years ago, you had really vibrant coalitions that used direct action as a means to oppose their governments and hold them accountable. We see none of that anymore”, says Medhurst.

In conclusion, the journalist and political commentator adds:

“You can’t rely on a representative democracy that is run by corporations because they only listen to money. So you have to withhold your labour and civil obedience. General strikes, rent strikes, debt strikes, these are the things that get things done, that get substantive change implemented.”

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