It was Julian Assange’s 49th birthday on 3 July. He did not have much to celebrate being incarcerated in in the high-security HMP Belmarsh for more than a year facing extradition to the United States where he has been indicted under the Espionage Act for Wikileaks’ 2010-11 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Department cables. But he would have cheered to know that on that day 40 press freedom groups and journalist organisations wrote to the Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (with a copy to Dominic Raab MP Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) calling for the British Government to release the Wikileaks founder and to block his extradition to the US. The charges against Julian carry a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Earlier this month Brian Cathcart, author and long standing campaigner for media reform, wrote an article in The Byline Times questioning why The Guardian had joined the deal negotiated with the Government by the News Media Association (NMA). In return for publishing Government advertorial newspapers shared out £35 million in the ‘All In, All Together’ deal. You can read the article at: https://bylinetimes.com/2020/06/05/why-is-the-guardian-accepting-a-dodgy-subsidy-from-this-dodgy-government/
Brian’s article asks reasonable questions about the newspaper’s participation in the Government three month advertising package and it is a pity that The Guardian appear to have not responded to all of them, more especially about its understanding of the character of the scheme, and the near exclusion of the independents from it. But then having taken the money maybe they won’t want to be critical of the scheme?
This year’s Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT) conference planned for 28 March in London was a victim of the pandemic lock-down, Since then attacks on democracy have been stepped up with continuing crackdowns on civil society, independent media and political opposition, especially members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). President Erdogan often accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, but the party says it is being targeted because of its strong opposition to the president. Dozens of officials and elected HDP MPs were arrested during a crackdown after a failed 2016 coup bid and writing in the Morning Star on 24 June Steve Sweeney reported that 51 of the 65 municipalities won by the HDP at the local elections in March 2019 had been taken over by government appointees and 22 of the party’s mayors imprisoned.
Meanwhile the economy continues to slip deeper into crisis worsened by the global Covid-19 pandemic. So the online conference on Sunday 21 June was of particular significance drawing together MPs, trade unionists and campaigners.