British media under fire for its ‘frightening’ blackout of a critical story involving the UK government
A demonstration ultimately in defence of media freedom happened on 2 September. It took place outside the Home Office in London. Numerous high profile figures attended, performed, and spoke at the well-attended event.
But, despite the protest bearing all the hallmarks of a newsworthy action, the British press ignored it. Why? Well, the protesters were gathered in support of Julian Assange. Need I say more?
Wish you were here
Assange is currently in Belmarsh prison after the Met Police arrested him in April. The US is seeking his extradition from the UK for prosecution for the WikiLeaks founder’s journalistic work.
In addition to US charges related to WikiLeaks revelations, Assange also faces a rape allegation in Sweden. Now that Assange no longer has asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, Swedish authorities have reopened this investigation at the request of the alleged survivor’s lawyer. Assange’s lawyer has previously insisted that “Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice, or indeed Swedish justice”. It is “US injustice”, she said, that concerns him.
The Canary believes that no allegations of sexual assault or rape should ever become politicised by either side.
People protested Assange’s potential extradition to the US at Priti Patel’s Home Office on 2 September.
As the Irish Examiner reported, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters made an appearance. He performed the band’s hit Wish You Were Here at the event:
Investigative journalist John Pilger also spoke at the rally. He called out the UK government for its role in Assange’s situation:
The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace, a profanity on the very notion of human rights. It’s no exaggeration to say that the treatment and persecution of Julian Assange is the way dictatorships treat a political prisoner.
MP Chris Williamson, meanwhile, attended to show his opposition to the “outrageous treatment” of the WikiLeaks founder:
I believe I was the only MP to attend today’s demo called by @rogerwaters outside the Home Office against the continued imprisonment of Julian Assange. His outrageous treatment is an assault against freedom of speech and journalism. He must be released immediately. #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/3BhxU2Hb6f
— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) September 2, 2019
But while Russian, Irish, Asian, and Latin American media outlets, and some local UK ones, provided coverage of the demonstration, there wasn’t a peep from the national British press:
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters performed 'Wish You Were Here' in support of Julian Assange yesterday.
ProQuest newspaper database finds *two* mentions in global media: in Asian News International, New Delhi, and Prensa Latina, Havana.
It finds NOTHING in any UK newspaper!
— Media Lens (@medialens) September 3, 2019
Historian Mark Curtis also asserted that the event didn’t even elicit a mention on social media from UK journalists:
A search for blueticks on twitter finds no UK journalist commenting on this. But it's not silence – it's journalists defending the state, indicating to them “I’m on your side, not Assange’s, I’m reliable”, even as their *own profession* is under major attack. It's chilling. https://t.co/84MrgiMYZj
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) September 3, 2019
Media Lens even contacted the Guardian to complain about the lack of coverage:
Just sent in:
In disbelief I keep returning to The Guardian for at least some sliver of a mention of Roger Waters’ mini gig for Assange. Totally & utterly & wilfully nothing. Frightening.'
— Media Lens (@medialens) September 2, 2019
True to form
While the national press response to this high profile event concerning media freedom is appalling, it isn’t unexpected. The British media dropped any pretence of playing fair with Assange long ago. But this event wasn’t just about his possible extradition to the US. It was about the UK’s authoritarian approach to media freedom.
People were gathered not only in support of Assange but to champion the protection of journalists. Yet Britain’s national media couldn’t even bring itself to mention this support. What a state the country’s ‘journalism’ is in.
Featured image via YouTube – The Telegraph
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