From Consortium News
Julian Assange was back in court twice last week, and will return to a high British court next month for the major legal battle of his life. It will determine whether the U.S. is allowed to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher to the U.S. for prosecution.
In the first of a series of extradition hearings on May 2, Assange appeared in court via video screen. He seemed composed and focused and ready to fight. He told the British High Court: "I do not wish to surrender for extradition. I'm a journalist winning many, many awards and protecting many people." The next procedural hearing is scheduled for May 30 and another substantive hearing for early June.
Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist for the Italian daily la Repubblica and the author of two books; "Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani" and "Una Bomba, Dieci Storie." She has for years worked closely with Assange on some of the most significant WikiLeaks releases including "Collateral Murder." Maurizi also worked closely with Glenn Greenwald on the files about Italy of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on National Security Agency surveillance.
On May 2, right after Assange's high court appearance, Maurizi told us that she fears for the health and welfare of Assange. She said she also fears for what it might mean to other journalists and whistleblowers if Assange is convicted in a U.S. court for his crucial work with whistleblowers, which has been used widely by news organizations.
Dennis Bernstein: Stefania Maurizi, I'd like you to start by giving us your gut reaction to what we have seen so far in terms of the treatment of Julian in recent days.
Stefania Maurizi: For me it has been really shocking to witness how Julian Assange has declined in the last nine years. I have been able to see changes in Julian's health and psychology. It was so sad, and no one could do anything. I could report on it and expose it but the other media and public opinion did absolutely nothing to make the government understand how terrible his treatment was. And all this is happening not in Russia, not in North Korea, this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. I now realize how little we can do in our democracy. If you look at what has happened to high-profile whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and an important publisher like Assange, who had the courage to publish these important revelations, what did your democracy do to save them, to treat them in a human way? Chelsea Manning was put in prison for seven years, where she tried to commit suicide twice. Now she is back in prison. Edward Snowden was forced to leave the U.S. Julian Assange has spent nine years in detainment and no one did anything. We were reporting, we were denouncing, we were exposing how seriously his health was declining. Nothing happened.
Dennis Bernstein: You've worked very closely with Julian Assange in Italy. You were in a sense a co-publisher in getting out crucial documentation. Could you talk about why you consider Assange not only a publisher, but one of the most important publishers of our time?
Assange and WikiLeaks won The Economist New Media Award at the 2008 Freedom of Expression Awards.
(Image by (Index on Censorship)) Details DMCA
Stefania Maurizi: I started working with WikiLeaks in 2009 when very few people knew about them. They hadn't yet published important documents like "Collateral Murder" or the "War Logs." I immediately saw that they were going to start a revolution. And that is what has happened: They have changed journalism. Their model of journalism spread and we see now leaks everywhere. We see this model of collaborative media partnership used by many media, like the Panama Papers Consortium. In addition, you have to realize the importance of what they have revealed. They have revealed the true face of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have revealed the inner working of U.S. diplomacy, for example, how they put pressure on Italian prosecutors who were trying to convict 23 Americans, almost all CIA agents, responsible for the extraordinary renditions here in Italy. Or they published revelations of how the U.S. forced the Italian government to purchase a Lockheed jet fighter.
This information is now available to everyone. You can see how The Washington Post used emails to investigate the [Jamal] Khashoggi murder and they were able to do so because they had the courage to publish these files. Even in the case of the Panama Papers, only the journalists inside the partnership can access the original files. WikiLeaks made these files fully accessible to everyone, so that every journalist, ever activist, every scholar, every citizen can be empowered by this information free of charge. That is the revolution.
Dennis Bernstein: Chelsea Manning is now in jail, refusing to cooperate with the grand jury. This is someone who spent so much time in solitary confinement. One of the key collaborations had to do with the activities of the U.S. government in Central America, destabilizing, undermining governments. Now they say they never get involved. If you look at the documentation in the context of the current attempt by [U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela] Elliot Abrams to destabilize Venezuela, here comes WikiLeaks again.
Stefania Maurizi: Absolutely. Whenever we have a scandal, we can go to the WikiLeaks website and search for any pertinent information. The information they publish continues to inform the public. They are now paying a huge price. I myself feel guilty because I was able throughout the past 10 years to work on all these documents, to verify them and publish them without any risk. Julian and WikiLeaks are paying a huge price and all the editors are silent. People accuse me of acting as an activist. I am not acting as an activist, I am speaking out because I feel uncomfortable when I see how professional journalists have all sorts of protection and are not facing imprisonment or extradition.