Legal, Systemic and Reputational Implications of the Assange Case

Subjects: Food sovereignty

After Brexit the UK government will be negotiating free trade treaties in secret, away from oversight by the public or politicians. It is vital that journalists are able to report on the government’s negotiating manoeuvres in these trade treaties as well as exposing its war crimes and corruption. Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention for revealing these crimes is testimony to UK and US governments’ desire to silence journalists. The only hope of a fair hearing for Julian is to increase public awareness about our right to know what the government is doing in our name.

With Brexit, we have potentially replaced a united states of Europe with the United States of the USA and so need to be doubly vigilant to ensure our food and farming standards are not forced into a downward spiral to compete with imports from the US and other countries whose welfare and food safety standards are lower than those in the UK. For example, trade lobbyists in the US want us to import pigs that have been injected with Ractopamine, a beta agonist that boosts pigs growth by 18% and has been banned in 160 countries that also prohibit imports of pork with any traces of Ractopamine.

In the US pigs are given double the amount of antibiotics compared to the UK. Mother pigs in the US are kept in cages so small that they can’t turn around in for their entire 3 month, 3 week and 3 day pregnancy and the following 4 weeks when they are feeding their piglets. In the UK pigs are held in cages for five weeks while farrowing and feeding their piglets; what chance is there of our achieving the UK public’s desire to ban these cages if our markets are flooded with cheaper food from caged animals from abroad?

It is vital that we take steps to protect whistle-blowers who use trusted publishing services like WikiLeaks. Julian Assange’s possible extradition to the USA where he is threatened with a prison sentence of 175 years, will be a chill for all journalists and their publishers who have a public duty to expose the kind of government corruption and lies that led to the Iraq war in 2003 and subsequent war crimes.

The three major trade agreements TPP, TTIP & TISA, aka the ‘Big 3Ts’, were negotiated in secret without proper democratic oversight. WikiLeaks has provided multiple draft chapters and negotiating positions to the public, which fuelled social justice and fair trade movements throughout the world. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have now stalled. The lesser known Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) between US, EU and 22 other countries accounts for two thirds of global GDP has been classified secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after TISA is implemented.

For almost a decade the various convolutions of the Julian Assange case have played out primarily in the UK. From the early extradition proceedings initiated by Sweden, followed by his 6-year asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to his arrest and conviction by the UK for bail violation in April 2019 and his current preventative detention at HMP Belmarsh under a US extradition request. Every phase of the saga has been marked by controversy, with the various camps often taking irreconcilable and increasingly emotional positions.

A public rally on Feb 4th aims to provide a forum for a fresh look at the facts and a sober discussion on the generic legal, policy and reputational implications of this case. It is less concerned with the controversies surrounding the personality and character of the man but with the challenge of maintaining national security, human rights and the rule of law in the cyber-age, with the systemic importance of transparency, oversight and accountability in democratic societies, and with the risks and benefits arising from the constantly evolving capabilities and roles of the media, civil society and whistle-blowers.

  1. Apart from the individual cast and plot, what is this case really about?
  2. What are the legal, systemic and reputational issues at stake for the UK and beyond?
  3. What does this case mean for publishers and journalism on the international stage?

For more information, please read this statement which explains why we need to speak up.