While it is rare that publishers themselves make headlines, reports about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now probably outnumber articles based on the information he published. This is the extent to which the man behind some of the most shocking revelations about U.S. war crimes has come under public scrutiny. Despite the profound journalistic importance of the work Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning have done, the two have been smeared, persecuted and imprisoned in an effort to "shoot the messenger," which effectively distracts from their revelations and works to undermine their credibility.
The mass media has played into this character assassination while both Manning and Assange are in jail, and instead of refusing to treat this as one of the most egregious assaults on press freedom, it has largely turned their back on the victims. Now, the media's reporting has been revealed to have done something even more damaging than destroy Assange's reputationit has served to torture him.
That is the conclusion Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and two medical experts who examined the WikiLeaks founder came to, according to a recent piece by Melzer published on Medium titled "Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange." While initially hesitant to meet with Assange after he was detained in the United Kingdom where he had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy for several years, Melzer ultimately decided to do so, despite having formed negative opinions about Assange based on widespread media coverage of the man.
"Basically, I didn't take [the request to examine Assange] seriously," Melzer tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer on the latest installment of Scheer's podcast, "Scheer Intelligence." "It took a second attempt to kind of shake me a little bit and say, [I] need to look at this. Once I opened the book and started looking at the actual evidence and facts for all these nametags that are being circulated in the press, I was shocked to see that there was very little substance that actually supported these qualifications."