“It’s about the constitutional state, it’s about democracy”

On the public hearing in the German Bundestag “Medien unter Beschuss” (Media under Fire)

Human Rights Day 10 December

On 27 November 2019 a public hearing of the party “Die Linke” (The Left) on the topic “Media under Fire” took place in the German Bundestag. About 250 participants attended the three-hour event. It dealt with the attacks on investigative journalism, on whistleblowers, increasingly also in Western countries, and the question of how these attacks can be warded off.1
In particular it was about the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who is being held in Belmarsh High Security Prison since 11 May, and his imminent extradition from the UK to the USA. Kristinn Hranfsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, described the US’s 18 charges against Assange as a “most serious attack on the freedom of the press”. But the increasing attacks on other journalists from different countries were emphasised too. Thus, the French government were persecuting the journalists Geoffrey Livolsi, Mathias Destal and Benôit Colombat, who uncovered the use of French weapons in the war against the civilian population of Yemen.
After numerous reports on Julian Assange’s life-threatening health condition, more than 60 medical doctors from different countries recently wrote an open letter to the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding an urgent clinical examination of his physical and psychological health condition: “Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Mr Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.”2
At the event Julian Asange’s father, John Shipton, Kristinn Hrafnsson, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Renata Avila from Julian Assange’s team of lawyers as well as different journalists and representatives of media organisations were heard. Among those was the investigative journalist John Goetz from the NDR [North German Broadcaster]. He has meanwhile filed charges against the security company UC Global because of suspicions that conversations he had with Julian Assange were surveilled and spied on.
Edward Snowden had sent a written message from his exile in Russia wherein he described the case as “declaration of war against journalism”. He found clear words to point out the possible ramifications: “And nowhere, nowhere in the world today can we find a clearer example of the institutions of developed democracies betraying their central commitment to this most fundamental right than the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange at the hands of the government of the United States, and his continued detention and mistreatment on those grounds by the United Kingdom. [...] This is the opening shot of a new War on Journalism, and if we do not force it to a halt before the next shot is heard, this war will not be fought long on foreign shores. If a man who has never lived in the United States can be forcibly delivered to its prisons for publishing truthful information, other journalists will soon join him. And this will embolden the world’s less-liberal regimes to push ever harder against the thin line dividing fact from fiction. The line dividing despotism from democracy.”3
All the speakers unanimously and clearly spoke out against the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA. They red-flagged the ramifications of the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange on free and investigative journalism. There were increasing attempts to criminalise whistleblowers.
UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer calmly and with expertise described the distressing goings-on and facts related to the life-threatening situation of Julian Assange. In the following Current Concerns publishes the linguisticly slightly adapted transcript of his explanations in full length.

Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller

1    The hearing is documented under: www.youtube.com/embed/1-ig55rbaSY?rel=0&autoplay=1&autoplay=1&modestbranding=1
2    https://consortiumnews.com/2019/11/23/doctors-petition-uk-home-secretary-over-julian-assange/
3    Statement Edward Snowden “My dear friends”: www.linksfraktion.de

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