Imprisoned journalist Julian Assange has found another voice from prison in order to urge people to keep fighting for freedom of press, writes Davey Heller.
IN DEFIANCE of all the forces trying to silence Julian Assange, he continues to speak to the world. He is doing so through the only avenue left to him — by sending replies to the letters of supporters that reach him in Belmarsh Prison. These letters are of historic importance, equivalent to the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ of Martin Luther King Jr.
However, these letters are also of vital current significance. Taken together, they map out the path to building a successful campaign that may free Julian Assange and save his life. The following are proposals for the “free Assange” campaign from Julian’s letters from Belmarsh.
Join or start your own “free Assange” organising committee
‘Start a “free Assange” organising committee in Moscow!’ These were the simple instructions from Julian to a supporter in Moscow. Couldn’t be much clearer, could it? Julian wants people to start “Free Assange” groups in their town or city, organising actions to demand he is freed.
There are already a number of such committees organising protests and meetings in Melbourne, Sydney, Stockholm, London, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Denver and Mexico City, but more must be formed.
In Julian’s letter to Gordan Dimmack from May 2019, Julian stated:
‘I am unbroken, albeit literally surrounded by murderers, but the days when I could read and speak and organise to defend myself, my ideals and my people are over until I am free! Everyone else must take my place.’
It has become crystal clear that there is no “official” cavalry coming — not human rights NGOs, not politicians and, by and large, not trade unions. We certainly can’t depend on justice from the UK and U.S. courts. This campaign will be won by ordinary people coming together and fighting. Julian, in a letter to a French supporter, recently released on Twitter, literally wrote in Morse code, ‘S.O.S.’ It is the universal distress call and it is ordinary people who must respond.
Protest and ‘push on that which will move, not simply that which opposes’
Julian, in a letter released on Twitter on 15 August, gave some very specific advice on the strategy that should guide how protests are conducted.
He summed up this strategy, stating:
‘Push on that which will move, not simply that which opposes. Said another way, find weak links in the chain that binds me.’
He suggested choosing protest targets from:
‘...organisations that can be influenced and which are not used to protest or have difficulty defending against it ideologically’.
Julian stated such weak links are vulnerable because:
‘...protests are powerful for an office not used to them, even if everyone pretends otherwise. I know having been in one.’
He made a number of specific suggestions for protest targets:
“Liberal” media organisations: such as the offices of the BBC France and Le Monde, presumably to demand they highlight the fundamental threat posed to all journalists by the prosecution of Assange for espionage. Such liberal media outlets either censored by omission these issues, or worse, joined in the smear campaign against Assange.
Human rights NGOs: such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Liberation (a UK-based anti-war and anti-imperialist NGO), presumably to pressure them to take a stronger role in the fight to free Assange and expose them for their failures to vigorously do so thus far.
Elite gathering holes: the UK and French Chamber of Commerce were among the targets described by Julian as ‘elite gathering holes’ , where the rich and powerful gather.
Australian embassies and consulates: After suggesting this, Julian wrote in brackets, ‘(do more)’. Julian is an Australian citizen, yet every Australian government of both major parties has not demanded that either the UK Government allow Assange to return to Australia (if he wishes) or for the U.S. Government to drop its criminal prosecution of an Australian journalist. The latest example was the refusal of PM Scott Morrison to raise the issue of Assange with President Trump whilst in Washington. The Australian Government is a “weak link” in the chain that binds Julian, however, as enormous support for Julian that exists within the Australian working class makes the Government vulnerable.
“Drop in” protests on potential allies.
Julian also suggested that
‘... perhaps if they have been helpful it may make even more sense to have a protest “drop in” on the way somewhere else rather than creating a feeling of adversary.’
This advice might apply to an organisation like a media union or NGO that has spoken out for Julian at times but needs to be prodded to do more.
Adapt to local conditions: Julian was very clear that the suggestions he made were only to give a guideline.
‘Please adapt above to local conditions. I am very isolated and not sure of the state of play, but you get the idea.’
Stay optimistic and keeping fighting: ‘We can win this!’
Even though Julian is curently in a terrible situation, he has repeatedly used his letters to urge supporters to keep fighting and stay optimistic.
For instance, in this letter to supporter Brian Cuffe, Julian states:
‘The suffering here is profound, but we can win this!’
In another letter, he suggests:
‘I am in a very dark place presently. Light up the night until victory!’
Write to Julian — your fight is sustaining him
It is clear that the news reaching Julian via his visitors and letters is helping to keep him alive.
He wrote to Catherine, a supporter in Melbourne, in late August:
‘Thank you for fighting to save my life. Please pass on my love and appreciation to all those who showing such commitment to bringing me safely home.’
He wrote to Brian Cuffe:
‘Knowing you have my back is what gets me through!’
And to a supporter in Switzerland, he simply stated:
‘Knowing you are out there fighting for me keeps me alive in this profound isolation.’
Remember what’s at stake
On 2 September, outside the Home Office of the UK in London, just before Roger Waters sang 'Wish You Were Here', famed Australian journalist John Pilger passed on the following message from Assange to the crowd:
“It’s not just me. It’s much wider. It’s all of us. It’s all journalists, and all publishers who do their job who are in danger.”
The campaign to free Julian Assange is far more than a campaign to free one man, it is a central fight in the defence of not just a free press but of all democratic rights. If his prosecution succeeds, then not only journalists, but ordinary people who work against the U.S. war machine, are vulnerable to state repression. Without a free press, the working class cannot advance any of its interests.
The truth is all we have
Julian’s letter to Gordan Dimmack finished with the following powerful sentence:
‘Truth, ultimately, is all we have.’
The truth, however, is a powerful weapon. There is no doubt if we can get the truth out of why Julian is being persecuted and what is at stake, ordinary people will respond and join the fight to free him en masse. If this was not true, it would not be necessary for the U.S. and its allies to endlessly smear Assange through the press and censor his plight by omission.
So, you know what to do. Follow Julian’s advice: start or join a free Assange committee, organise, and join protests, write to Julian, stay optimistic and fight! Remember what’s at stake and wield the truth as a weapon.
Davey Heller is a writer and campaigner. You can follow him on @socialist_davey.
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