By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – With the deaths of four American servicemen in Niger, a window has opened onto U.S. operations in West Africa – an area barely known even to U.S. legislators who have sent U.S. soldiers there in harm’s way.

The latest soldier to die on a tour in the French-speaking region is Texas-born Staff Sergeant, Logan J. Melgar, a Latino. His death in Mali is attributed to strangulation and two elite members of the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six are being investigated for his murder.

Melgar’s Special Forces teammates were there at the request of Paul Folmsbee, U.S. ambassador to Mali for a previously undisclosed and highly unusual clandestine mission to support French and Malian counterterrorism forces battling Al Qaeda’s branch in North and West Africa, as well as smaller cells aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, according to the New York Times.

- Photo: 2021

The Nobel Peace Prize to Julian Assange Would Have Given Hope for Saving Global Democracy

Viewpoint by Kalinga Seneviratne

SYDNEY (IDN) — In the early 1980s when I was studying mass communications in Australia, our journalism lecturer told us that as journalists we will have to hold governments to account, and to do that sometimes we may need to depend on leaks from government officials. “You should not hesitate to use that information, while ensuring that you do not disclose the source,” he instructed us, adding, “if anyone asks you (for the source) tell them it fell off the back of a truck”.

What founder of WikiLeaks, Australian journalist Julian Assange did 20 years later was exactly that, and in the Internet age, instead of using some paper documents leaked by a government official, he used electronic documents leaked to him via computer by a US government intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

If this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is about promoting “Press Freedom” the Norwegian Nobel Committee has missed a golden opportunity to make a powerful statement at a time when such freedom is under threat in the very countries that have traditionally claimed a patent on it.

Assange held under torturous conditions in a high-security British prison awaiting possible extradition to the US, should have been given the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer has accused the British government of torturing Assange. “The purpose of what has been done to Julian Assange is not to punish or coerce him, but to silence him and to do so in broad daylight, making visible to the entire world that those who expose the misconduct of the powerful no longer enjoy the protection of the law,” he said in media statement before his trial began.

Assange has paid a heavy price for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan with the help of Manning. He is now facing 19 espionage charges for activities related to the publication of leaked classified US government information. If convicted he faces a maximum of 175 years in a US jail.

US authorities have accused the 50-year-old WikiLeaks founder of conspiring to hack government computers and of violating an espionage law in connection with the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

“Julian Assange committed the crime of letting the general population know things that they have a right to know and that powerful states don’t want them to know,” noted renowned American media critic Noam Chomsky in an interview on Russia’s RT channel last year.

In announcing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Filipino journalist Maria Ressa and Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel Committee said that it was awarded “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. They added that the two of them have fought a courageous battle for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.

It is true that they have waged a courageous battle against their own governments. But these are regimes, which are not subservient to the West. Both of them, are alleged to be heavily funded by western “donor” agencies, thus, a reason for their governments cracking down heavily on both, seeing their activities as a form of espionage and a security threat.

The question that needs to be asked from the Nobel Committee is why is Ressa’s and Muratov’s activities seen as far more important to achieving world peace, than the courageous battle of Assange to exposed far more serious crimes that have far greater impact on world peace?

If charges against Assange were brought before the US courts for his publishing activity, he would be found not guilty due to the US First Amendment constitutional protections for free speech. Thus, the US security apparatus arguing that Assange’s actions compromised the safety of its personnel around the world, has defined WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service”. Basically their claim to be a publisher and journalist were struck down, so that espionage charges could be laid.

Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard in a statement released on October 27 called on US authorities to drop the charges against Assange, and UK courts to release him immediately. “It is a damning indictment that nearly 20 years on, virtually no one responsible for alleged US war crimes committed in the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been held accountable, let alone prosecuted, and yet a publisher who exposed such crimes is potentially facing a lifetime in jail,” she said.

In January this year, a British court ruled that Assange could not be extradition to the US due to fears of psychological torture in the US prison system. But, he remains in British custody because the Biden administration has appealed against it. A two-day hearing on the appeal was heard on October 27-28 and the verdict is due in the new year.

In a statement following the January verdict, Australia’s journalists’ union MEAA said “journalists everywhere should be concerned at the hostile manner in which the court dismissed all defence arguments related to press freedom” and added “Julian has suffered a 10-year ordeal for trying to bring information of public interest to the light of day, and it has had an immense impact on his mental and physical health”.

“Julian Assange is a truth-teller who has committed no crime but revealed government crimes and lies on a vast scale and so performed one of the great public services of my lifetime,” noted fellow Australian journalist John Pilger writing in Global Research after the latest court case in London. Pointing out that the case was ignored by the mainstream media, he adds, “most people would not know that a court in the heart of London had sat in judgment on their right to know: their right to question and dissent”.

Former UK’s Daily Telegraph chief political writer Peter Oborne in a recent commentary for Press Gazzete warned that, “future generations of journalists would not forgive us if we do not fight extradition (of Assange)”. He pointed out that there has been a deafening silence on Assange’s plight in the mainstream media in the UK.

Oborne argues that if it’s a case of a foreign journalist held in Britain’s Belmarch Prison charged with suppose espionage offences by the Chinese authorities, for exposing war crimes of the Chinese troops, and the Chinese were putting pressure on the British government to extradite him to China, where he could face up to 175 years in jail, “the outrage from the British press would be deafening”.

“There would be calls for protests outside the prison, solemn leaders in the broadsheet newspapers, debates on primetime news programmes, alongside a rush of questions in parliament,” he noted, adding that the situation of Assange is identical to this scenario. “Yet there has been scarcely a word in the British mainstream media in his defense.”

If the UK courts agree to extradite Assange to the US, it would send a chilling message to journalists everywhere that fascism has arrived at the doorstep of the so-called “free world” and “watchdog” journalism is dead. In the meantime, President Biden and his allies will be trumpeting “free speech” at the democracy summit he has called for December 9 and 10. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 December 2021]

* The writer is the author of ‘Myth of Free Media and Fake News in the Post-Truth Era” published by SAGE.

Photo: Collage of pictures of Maria Ressa (left) and Dmitry Andreyevich Muratovn (right), winners of the Nobel Peace Prize 2021. Copyright of two photos: Nobel Prize Outreach.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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