Saturday, 1 December 2012

Assange's problem with press freedom


An extract of an ill-tempered interview between Julien Assange and the BBC journalist Zeinab Badawi has turned on the BBC website. Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy because he skipped bail. He was to be extradited to Sweden for charges on sexual assault but refuses to face his accusers. 


In the interview he accused BBC journalist Badawi of supporting torture, amongst other non-sensical accusations. His outburst is a window into his thinking and the fact that he has a very rudimentary understanding of journalism itself. Following accusations of Assange that Bradley Manning had been tortured and was not allowed to see a lawyer, Badawi attempted to mention that this interpretation is contested by the US government and that Manning’s lawyer has in fact confirmed that he has visited him repeatedly. At that point Assange exploded in sheer rage and accused the BBC of bias for not supporting his view. 

This is instructive. For Assange, journalists are only fair and impartial if they agree with his point of view. Any other view is illegitimate and demonstrates tendentiousness. It is final proof of what many have suspected for a long time. Assange has a very limited understanding of good journalism and he often struggles to tolerate other views. This somehow neatly lines up with his political belief that America is evil incarnate. By now, Assange is on the payroll of the Russian state TV and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that this is where Wikileaks ended up. A famous Communist once said that freedom is always the freedom of those thinking different. Assange may never accept that. 

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