With Patrick Cockburn’s extremely important piece last week on Julian Assange (‘The Assange extradition case is an unprecedented attack on press freedom’, 5 October) it was good to see that The Independent was living up to its name.
The Wikileaks disclosures brought to light criminal behaviour the US government wanted concealed from its citizens – the revelation of which is probably the most important function of a free press. However, this government has done everything possible, at the cost of tens of millions of pounds, to punish Mr Assange to please its US ally. Anyone following reports on the recent proceedings would be utterly shocked at the show-trial nature of the hearings.
There are arguably more important press failings, for example, the feeble media challenges to the government’s deceits around Covid-19 reporting, or the fiascos and corruption over PPE, test and trace and the amazingly crass transfer of the elderly from hospitals to care homes. Also, of course, on the selling of lethal weaponry to the Saudis that the UN claims are being used for war crimes in Yemen. (The government was outraged by the alleged use of Novichok in Britain, yet its weapons are being used to kill thousands of civilians abroad – the hypocrisy is breathtaking.)
An informed public is vital for any meaningful democracy and it is their right, except where secrecy is necessary for national security, to know what it is being done in their name. If the bulk of the media, as it appears in the Assange case, collude with the government on silencing whistleblowers, they are doing the country no favours. The silence of the national press, and the BBC in particular, on the Julian Assange hearings is a disgrace.