Wikileaks tells media what not to say about Assange
The words ‘‘private’’ and ‘‘confidential’’ have had little deterrent effect on Julian Assange during his long career leaking other people’s secrets.
It was no small irony, then, that when his Wikileaks site ordered journalists not to report 140 different ‘‘false and defamatory’’ allegations about its founder, a 5000-word email detailing them was leaked on to the internet for all to see.
Assange, 47, has been holed up at the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge for nearly seven years after losing his legal battle against extradition to Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations. He is further embroiled in the investigation into Russian interfering with the 2016 US presidential election after Wikileaks published emails, believed to have been illegally obtained by Russian hackers, that may have helped Donald Trump to victory.
The instruction to journalists concerned matters of less international importance. The world’s media must refrain from calling Assange or the website an ‘‘arm of Russia’’ or a ‘‘Russian cutout’’. It also points out that Wikileaks has a salaried staff, rather than ‘‘members’’, and is ‘‘not alqaeda’’.
Assange, who denies any sexual impropriety, was granted asylum by Ecuador on the ground that he believes he faces torture or a possible death sentence if he were to be extradited to the US. The Metropolitan Police want to question him for allegedly failing to answer court bail.
The email railed against inaccurate reporting of his case, claiming that the Swedish allegations had been misrepresented, and took issue with a newspaper story that Paul Manafort, briefly Trump’s campaign manager, visited Assange at the embassy. Manafort is due to be sentenced in the United States in March for bank fraud and tax offences. The email also stated that it is ‘‘false and defamatory’’ to ‘‘deny that [Mr] Assange is an award-winning editor, journalist, publisher, author and documentary maker"; ‘‘to suggest that Julian Assange, as a political refugee, does not have the right to voice his political opinions or a right to communicate them"; or to say that he ‘‘breached bail’’, ‘‘jumped bail’’, absconded, fled an arrest warrant, or has ever been charged with such at any time.
Wikileaks said: ‘‘There is a pervasive climate of inaccurate claims about Wikileaks and Julian Assange, including purposeful fabrications planted in otherwise reputable media outlets.
‘‘Consequently, journalists and publishers have a responsibility to fact-check from primary sources to ensure they are not spreading, and have not spread, falsehoods.’’
Wikileaks did not respond to repeated calls to comment.
– The Times A federal judge is allowing four Native American tribes in the Dakotas to challenge the recent conclusion of federal officials that a Dakota Access oil pipeline spill wouldn’t unfairly affect them, further prolonging a court case that has lingered for more than two years.
The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton and Oglala Sioux sued in July 2016 and are still fighting even though the US$3.8 billion pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to Illinois in 2017. They fear environmental harm should the pipeline spill into the Missouri River, which they rely on for drinking water, fishing and religion.
US District Judge James Boasberg in June 2017 ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to do more study on the pipeline’s impacts on tribes. The agency last fall completed more than a year of additional work that it said backed up its earlier determination that the pipeline does not pose a higher risk of adverse impacts to minorities.
The tribes contend the Corps has simply rubber-stamped earlier conclusions. –AP