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Transcript & Video: John Pilger in Sydney defends Assange exposes his persecutors

John Pilger reminds us of the 'journalists' who let down Julian Assange whilst profiting from the information he released. He reminds us how far down journalism has sunk. He uses the term 'Vichy-journalism' to good effect.

Transcript of John Pilger's magnificent speech on why Julian Assange is being persecuted, who is responsible, and the mass media role

[Headings have been inserted by editor.]

JOHN PILGER: Thank you for coming for Julian. And thank you to the SEP for organising this important rally. The persecution of Julian Assange must end. Or it will end in tragedy
The Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have a historic opportunity to decide which it will be. They can remain silent, for which history will be unforgiving. Or they can act in the interests of justice and humanity and bring this remarkable Australian citizen home. Julian does not seek special treatment. The Australian Government has clear diplomatic and moral obligations to protect its citizens abroad from gross injustice.In Julian's case, from a gross miscarriage of justice and the extreme danger that awaits him, should he walk out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London unprotected.

We know from the Chelsea Manning case what you in can expect if a US extradition warrant is successful. The United Nations has called it torture.

I know Julian well. I regard him as a close friend, a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I've watched the tsunami of lies and smear engulf him endlessly, predictably, perfidiously, and I know why they smear him.

Secret US Defense Department document lays out how to destroy Assange

In 2008 a plan to destroyed both WikiLeaks and Julian was laid out in a secret document dated 8th of March 2008. The authors were the cyber counterintelligence assessment branch of the US Defense Department. They described in detail how important it was to destroy - and I quote - "the feeling of trust that WikiLeaks that is WikiLeaks center-of-gravity." This would be achieved, they wrote, "with threats of exposure and criminal prosecution and an unrelenting assault on reputation."

The aim was to silence and criminalize WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech.

Their weapon would be personal sphere and their assassins would be journalists, the very people who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth.

The irony! The irony is that no-one has told these journalists what to do.

I call them Vichy-journalists, after the journalists who served the German occupation of war-time France.

Mainstream journalism decay: ABC's Sarah Ferguson, Sally Neighbor, the Guardian, and others

I've been a journalist for many years. I've never known such corruption of my craft. It is as if a world of illusions has consumed the last vestiges of honest media in the cause of decaying power, its wars and witch hunts. Let me give you one example. Last October, the ABC journalist, Sarah Ferguson, interviewed Hillary Clinton, over whom she fawned, and, as I quote, "the icon for your generation." This was the same Clinton who threatened to obliterate Iran and, as US Secretary of State in 2011, one of the instigators of the invasion and destruction of Libya as a modern state, with the loss of 40,000 lives. Like the invasion of Iraq, it was based on lies. When the Libyan president was murdered publicly and gruesomely with a knife, Clinton whooped and cheered. Thanks largely to her, Libya became a breeding ground for Isis and other jihadists.

Thanks largely to her, tens of thousands of refugees fled in peril across the Mediterranean and many of them drowned. In leaked emails, published by WikiLeaks , we know that Hillary Clinton's Foundation received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the main backers of Isis and terrorism across the Middle East. From these disclosures we know that as Secretary of State, Clinton, approved the biggest arms deal ever, eighty billion dollars worth. Today Saudi Arabia is using these weapons to crush the starving and stricken people of Yemen.
Sarah Ferguson, the highly paid ABC reporter, raised not a word of this, with Hillary Clinton sitting in front of us. Instead she allowed Clinton to attack and smear Julian Assange as a lightweight, a tool of Russian intelligence, and a nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator. Julian was offered no right of reply to this shocking interview, this orgy of defamation, broadcast by Australia's publicly funded state broadcaster.

As if this wasn't enough, Ferguson's executive producer, Sally Neighbor, followed the interview with a vicious retweet, "Assange is Putin's bitch."

We all know it. This is what I mean by corruption. This is what I mean by Vichy-journalism. It was an insult to the very meaning of journalism. There are many other examples.

The Guardian reputedly once a great liberal newspaper has conducted a vendetta against Julian Assange. Like a spurned lover, the Guardian has aimed its personal, petty, inhuman, and cowardly attacks at a man whose work it once published and profited from. It is as if Julian were fair game and too poor to sue for defamation. The former editor of the Guardian called the WikiLeaks, disclosures which his newspaper published in 2010, 'one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years'. Awards were lavished on the paper as if Julian did not exist.

Wikileaks revelations became part of the Guardian's marketing plan to raise the newspaper's cover price. They made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks and Julian struggle to survive. With not a penny going to WikiLeaks a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book's authors, Luke Harding and David Lee, gratuitously abused Assange as a damaged personality and callous. They also revealed the secret password Julian had given the Guardian in confidence and which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US Embassy cables.

With Julian trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy, Luke Hardy of the Guardian, who had made big backs big bucks on the backs of Julian and Edward Snowden, stood among the police outside the embassy and gloated in his blog that Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.

This is how far the craft of journalism has sunk - Vichy-journalism. The question is why. Julian Assange has committed no crime. He has never been charged with a crime. The swedish episode was bogus and farcical and he has been vindicated

Witchhunts by some of the 'Left-leaning' and some 'feminists'

Karen Axelson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote - and I quote them - "The allegations against Assange are a smokescreen, behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations and their attendant rape, murder, and destruction. The authorities care so little about violence against women, but they manipulate rape allegations at will." Unquote. Most of this truth was lost or buried in a media witch hunt that disgracefully associated Julian with rape and misogyny. The witch hunt included voices who describe themselves as 'on the left' and as 'feminist'. Shame on them!

Failure to report on seriousness of danger to Assange

Throughout this fear campaign, the threat of Julian's extradition to a hellhole in the US was willfully ignored. Documents released by Edward Snowden showed Julian to be on what is called a 'manhunt target list'. One leaked official memo reads as follows, and I quote: "Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorists, you'll be eating cat food forever."
In Alexandra, Virginia, the suburban home of America's war-making elite, a secret grand jury, a throwback to the Middle Ages, has spent seven years trying to concoct a crime for which Julian Assange can be prosecuted. But this isn't easy because the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists, and whistleblowers.

Julian's crime is that he broke a silence. No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done and the public service it has provided in calling rapacious Power to account. Julian and Wikileaks have pushed back a one-way moral screen to reveal that imperialism - our imperialism - the often disguised imperialism of liberal democracies is never benevolent or moral as it contrives to appear, as it is presented so often in the media, but committed to endless warfare to the conquest of our resources, our lives, our dignity, if we allow it.

When Harold Pinter, the great playwrite, accepted the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005, he referred to a vast tapestry of lies upon which we feed. He asked why, and I quote, "the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought of the Soviet Union was well known in the west, while American imperial crimes quote 'never happened' even while they were happening they never happened." He was referring to the great silence.

Julian and WikiLeaks have smashed this silence and exposed how the imperial game is played by those with liberal pretensions. Their revelations have lifted the masks of those who regard whole nations in terms of their usefulness or expendability and that is why his life is in danger.

Prime Minister Turnbull

Seven years ago, here in Sydney, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal member of the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. I asked him to deliver an urgent appeal from Julian's lawyer to the government of Julia Gillard. Turnbull and I talked for several hours about Julian and his right to justice. He seemed [inaudible] sympathetic. We also talked about Turnbull's famous victory in the 1980s, when as a young lawyer, he had fought the British government's attempted to suppress free speech and prevent the publication of the book Spy Catcher in a way a WikiLeaks of the time, for it revealed the crimes of great power.

Prime Minister Gillard's ignorant and shocking attempts to cancel Assad's passport

When I met Turnbull, the Labour Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had declared WikiLeaks illegal and wanted to cancel Julian's passport - in effect his birthright - until she was told she couldn't do it. She was told by the AFP she couldn't do it; that Julian had committed no crime, that WikiLeaks was a publisher; his work was protected under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia was one of the original signatories. In abandoning Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, and colluding in his persecution, Gillard's outrageous behavior forced the issue of Julian's recognition under international law as a political refugee. Tiny Ecuador invoked the 1951 convention and granted Julian refuge in the embassy. There was no question under international law that his life was in danger. Julia Gillard has recently been appearing with Hillary Clinton as 'pioneering feminist'. It is reassuring to know that political satire is back. In these gigs, Prime Minister Gillard has not referred to her distinction as the first Prime Minister on whose watch Australian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. We know from WikiLeaks warlogs the atrocious nature of that imperial war in Afghanistan. If there's anything to remember Gillard by, it is a sychophantic embarassing speech she made to the US Congress soon after she demanded the the illegal cancellation of Julian's passport.

Will Canberra assume its responsibilities in order to avert tragedy and save this Australian hero?

Is that how we will remember Malcolm Turnbull? Julian's father has written to Malcolm Turnbull just the other day. It is a moving letter in which he has appealed to the prime minister to bring Julian home. He refers to the real possibility of a tragedy.

I have watched Julian's health deteriorate in the years of confinement without sunlight. He has a relentless cough, but is denied safe passage to and from the hospital for even an x-ray.
The Australian Government has the diplomatic power to intervene.

For years the governments in Canberra offered no help, no help to Julian. Now the responsibility of the Trunbull government could not be clearer. It goes to the very heart the very heart of human justice and morality. Malcolm Turnbull can remain silent or he can seize the opportunity and fulfill his government's obligations and defend the life of a man who is a true Australian hero.
He can bring Julian Assange home. The choice is his.


Thankyou John Pilger for a stirring and forthright speech addressing not only Julian Assange, but, furthermore, laying bare Australia's soul. I recently described Australia as a neoliberal pariah, John has taken this further by describing a nation that has no scruples, is hypnotised by the neoconservative deep state and controlled by transnationals and the mainstream media.

In 2007 Kevin Rudd described climate change as the greatest moral challenge of our time. Today that moral challenge is about Australia being honest, benevolent, understanding, courageous, intelligent and above all, forgiving. Until we can be any and all of the above, we as a nation, cannot move forward.

Thanks for posting the full transcript for those who couldn't make it.