By Nina Cross
This is the second of now three articles looking at the different ways the BBC manipulates our perception of Julian Assange. Part 1 looks at how the BBC helped the government to present Assange as a serious criminal after he was arrested in 2019. Part 2 focuses on the ways the BBC has helped to grow a culture of impunity towards him, impunity which has taken hold inside British public institutions and courts, and which could result in his death if it is not stopped.
The upcoming US appeal against January’s court ruling that Assange would not be extradited has in essence nothing to do with extradition, but will focus on his character and psychology. It is designed to discredit his name further, diminish his suffering and downplay the risks he faces in the US. We can see how the BBC has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for this.
Editor’ Note: In addition to this series authored by Nina Cross, The Indicter has previously treated, in several issues, the subject of the unproper handling of Julian Assange by main stream media, in the context of extradition hearings in London. E.g., see Sweden inflicted Trial by Media against Julian Assange, and The Trial by Media, Part II of Prof. Ferrada de Noli’s book Sweden Vs Assange. Human Rights Issues./ Dr. Lena Oske.
A picture of prejudice and propaganda
We can see the corporate media smear campaign of Assange has not bypassed judges. We know that Judge Snow, convicting Assange for bail violation, accused him of being a narcissist who could not get beyond his own self-interest after Assange simply said “I plead not guilty”. We know Judge Taylor claimed Assange had been charged with rape and had to be corrected. Sentencing him to 50 weeks in prison for bail skipping she dismissed his fears of persecution, ignored the appearance of the US indictment and claimed he had fled to the embassy to “evade justice”. This was illogical given the first US indictment against him was unsealed the day of his arrest, the official reasons Ecuador gave for granting asylum and the pile of threats against Assange’s life by US officials. Judge Taylor repeated the same narrative of “evading justice” that the BBC and other corporate media had pushed for the years between Assange’s arrival at the embassy and the date of her sentencing.
The recent revelation of the CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate Assange in 2017, ignored by the BBC unless you live in Somalia, is vindication of Assange’s fears and shows Judge Taylor’s sentencing statement for what it was: politically motivated propaganda. Judge Baraitser in turn was observed ruling significantly in favour of the requests made by the US prosecution, arbitrarily barring trial monitors and opining that possible CIA plots to assassinate Assange back in 2010 were not unreasonable.
Even if we excluded the reality of allegiances and political influences, the fact judges have likely followed BBC and other corporate media news for the last decade means they have very likely acquired a negative and distorted view of Assange and historical facts around him. The following are some of the ways the BBC has smeared Assange.
Discrediting Assange as a journalist
The BBC always describes Assange as the ‘founder of Wikileaks’ but for Jamal Khashoggi, Roman Protasevich, Anna Politkovskaya, and countless others, whose work does not threaten US military impunity but is considered ideologically acceptable, they qualify as journalist, activist journalist, dissident journalist, campaigning human rights journalist.
But the journalist who exposes US war crimes is an “attention seeker“, “definitely a bad house guest – that much we’re sure of,” an empty man, mischief-maker, wanting attention, a played Putin stooge, trouble-maker, an activist hacker, a narcissist – according to a “widely held opinion”, Russia’s useful idiot, unhygienic, uncaring towards his cat, noisy, rude and anti-social, a cyberterrorist with disgusting habits, someone who avoided extradition to Sweden to avoid being interviewed about sexual allegations: a fugitive, a smirk-faced irresponsible hack who ha ha will be murdered by the CIA,
But these form just a segment of output on Assange. The BBC has greatly invested in his character assassination, which takes various forms, including news articles, videos and podcasts. Repetition is important if you want to programme your audience to dislike someone or worse see them as a danger, a public enemy. And while we are busy being programmed that Assange is the enemy, we slip into a comatose state and forget who should be in the dock. The BBC wants us to think the crimes against humanity, the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, the dissolution of entire countries, programmes of rendition and torture and state-sponsored military war crimes all pale into insignificance when compared to evil Assange. The smearing of his character, designed to inspire disgust, has likely influenced judges just as much as it has other BBC licence payers.
Parallel to the nurturing of disgust towards Assange by the BBC, there is a growing disdain towards journalists not receiving corporate salaries. The precedent-setting case of Craig Murray, sentenced by a High Court, shows that a tiered justice system is in the making in Britain, that journalists not in the corporate club do not have the same protections. The BBC’s long term toxic Assange-bashing output, reinforced by other corporate media, put together with a culture of disdain for ‘not proper journalists’ means that while he remains subjected to the will and whim of the British courts Assange’s life is in danger.
Airbrushing and hiding abuses of process
The abuses of process and ill treatment inflicted upon Assange have been well-documented by the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, the United Nations, political leaders, lawyers, human rights advocates, doctors and NGOs. Instead of practising journalism and exposing these abuses, the BBC has hidden the corruption of public institutions.
The BBC will tell you that the two initial investigations concerning Assange in Sweden were dropped by the public prosecutor but picked up later by another, Marianne Ny. It won’t tell you that police changed witness testimony to give the appearance a possible rape had been committed. It won’t tell you that the women involved went to the police station only to inquire if they could compel Assange to take an STD test.
The BBC will tell you that the Swedish prosecutors issued a red alert but won’t tell you this was issued along with a European arrest warrant after the prosecutor gave Assange permission to leave Sweden. It will not tell you that Former Stockholm chief district prosecutor, Sven-Erik Alhem, described Ny’s steps to extradite Assange as:
“… unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate.” providing a statement on the abuses of process she had engaged in.
The BBC will tell you the Supreme Court ordered Assange to be extradited in 2012 but it will not tell you that the law was changed in 2014 so that extradition requests could not be issued in the same way Assange’s had been by Marianne Ny.
The BBC will tell you that Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning regarding sexual allegations, implying reluctance to cooperate with the Swedish authorities. It won’t tell you Assange made repeated attempts to meet with the prosecutors but they stone-walled him. Connecting political asylum to sexual violence does not make legal or common sense, except to Judge Taylor. What civilised countries give political asylum to suspects of sexual violence?
The BBC sometimes tells you Assange sought asylum to avoid onward extradition from Sweden to the US, but this is not enough to counter its prolific fugitive rhetoric. It will not tell you of the evidence indicating Sweden would extradite him to the US.
It will tell you that one of the two cases of allegations against Assange was dropped as the statute of limitations for the offence had expired while he was in the embassy. It will not tell you that Marianne Ny had only to walk into the embassy or switch on the video link but refused, caving into the pressure from the CPS because Assange was “not just another extradition case.”
This BBC article published in 2012 – after Assange had sought refuge in the embassy – tells us the Swedish authorities accused Ecuador of halting the Swedish judicial process:
“The accusations… are serious, and it is unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process and European judicial co-operation,” said Anders Joerle, spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry”.
but then the article tells us:
“A subsequent offer by Ecuador to allow Swedish investigators to interview Mr Assange inside the embassy was rejected.”
What it does not tell you is that hanging an arrest warrant over someone and refusing to interview them is not normal practice. This contradiction shows the suspect motives by the Swedish authorities; the intention was extradition not investigation.
Assange himself told the BBC:
“The Swedish government refuses to behave in a way that is at all normal, rational or reasonable and that is why I have been granted political asylum”.
But instead of exposing the inconsistencies, contradictions and abnormal behaviours, the BBC has buried them as seen here: hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing.
The Swedish authorities continued this abuse and in 2015 it was a factor in the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) that Assange was arbitrarily detained.
The BBC will tell you Assange cost the British taxpayer many millions through surveillance by not leaving the Ecuadorian embassy but it will not tell you this was a misuse of public funds and of the police service. Hundreds of uniformed men and women stood bored outside the embassy in essence on ceremony, saluting the Whitehouse, while Theresa May slashed the policing budget during a period of soaring knife crime in London.
The BBC will tell you Assange is in Belmarsh prison but it won’t tell you that he was held in indefinite solitary confinement, contrary to the government’s agreement to comply with the UN convention against torture.
The impunity to persecute Assange has been enabled by the BBC through omission and silence. Instead of practising journalism it has turned a blind eye to abuses of the British authorities and those of its allies. The BBC’s behaviour is contrary: anti-journalism, anti-truth.
Disinformation to defamation
Imagine being a judge and listening to BBC News the day Assange was arrested in April 2019. In this video chief BBC diplomatic reporter, James Landale:
- not only confuses the 2010 extradition request from Sweden with an extradition request not yet made by the USA, but his odd comment about “information and what we now call Wikileaks” appears to be a desperate attempt to avoid saying “US war crimes”
- claims “rape charges had lapsed but could be restarted if the Swedish authorities wished to do that.” Landale was most likely here referring to the statute of limitations for allegations as charges were never brought against Assange.
The Eton-educated Landale swings between allegations and charges, typical of corporate media’s disregard for factual accuracy. Perhaps Etonian confidence is enough to persuade most judges he knew what he was talking about. Landale plugged the government narrative, and whitewashed the Ecuadorian government’s abuses of process, claiming it “formally” withdrew asylum when in practice Assange was stripped of asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship without any due process. It was a catalogue of disinformation. During the video words appearing on the screen included “discourteous aggressive behaviour”.
A demonstration of how to cover abuses of process
In this 2019 BBC article we are told the Swedish prosecutors closed the case because:
“..at the time they felt they were unable to take the case forward while Assange was inside the Ecuadorean embassy.”
This is how the BBC hides abuses of process. Procedures do not depend on the feelings of prosecutors; they are carried out according to laws and norms. Stone-walling your own investigation is an abuse and was a factor in the UNWGAD decision of arbitrary detention.
This BBC article in March 2015 quotes Ny on her U-turn decision to finally interview Assange to avoid completely sabotaging her own investigation. She shows no sense of urgency or responsibility towards the case she was supposedly investigating:
‘My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorian embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview,’”
Yet when the BBC reported that Swedish prosecutors finally dropped the supposed investigation in 2019 because:
“…the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question.”
we have to question, because neither the BBC nor the courts have, is it normal for Swedish prosecutors to arrest someone, refuse to interview them for years then complain about having poor evidence? But we are in the fictitious world of the BBC where the fancy of prosecutors takes priority over law, which is presumably the same world inhabited by Judge Taylor.
Its behaviour shows that the BBC does not serve the interests of the public but of the Foreign Office, the British elite and its allies in the US security state, the true beneficiaries of the culture of impunity cultivated towards Assange. Critical facts are buried or manipulated by the BBC, and arbitrarily ignored by the British courts, so we have a non-sensical distorted version of reality where the rulings of the courts reflect what is peddled in BBC output: disinformation, the abnormal presented as normal and gross contempt towards Assange.
Logically judges and other professionals watch and read beyond BBC News, although likely digest other corporate media propaganda about Assange from outlets such as the Guardian. And as recognised, many things influence judges. However, the courtroom prejudice Assange has faced cannot be ignored, and a trial by media has run parallel to legal proceedings for years.
Neither can the power of the BBC be ignored, as David Clementi, former head claimed:
“No other national asset has the potential to serve Britain so powerfully”
In Assange’s case it has served the interests of the British state apparatus, enabling a culture of impunity by spoon feeding its audience government narratives, manipulating perception, and promoting ridicule and disdain. The persecution of Assange that increasingly looks like a slow assassination by the UK and US authorities could not be so conceivable without a servile media. The BBC stepped up. It is time the trial by media ended.