Wik­ileaks tells me­dia what not to say about As­sange

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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