Friday 17 June 2022

The BBC and Julian Assange

In the decade or so since this blog began many people's take on Julian Assange has changed. A decade or so ago he was reviled on blogs like this and treated favourably by the BBC. Now he's grudgingly admired on blogs like this and treated not so favourably by the BBC. And, for the record, I've undergone quite a change of view about him too. 

The news today that Priti Patel has given the go-ahead for Mr Assange to be extradited is receiving muted coverage from the BBC. The BBC News website briefly featured it on their home page, but it's slipped off into the remoter parts of the site already. A few years back they'd have kept it as a main story.

Here is BBC home and legal correspondent Dominic Casciani's 'analysis' for the BBC News website today. Please see how you read it, because I read it as [most unusually] sort-of backing Ms Patel, painting her as legally having no other alternative:
This decision is the most important stage so far in Mr Assange's long legal battle.

Judges in London have already ruled that the US's request was lawful and that the American authorities would care for him properly in prison.

Now, the home secretary has carried out her role in the complicated legal process by signing off the US request.

Her officials said she was legally bound to do so because Mr Assange does not face the death penalty - nor does his case fall into the other narrow range of categories for her to refuse to approve the transfer.

In practice, this means there is nothing to stop Washington sending a jet to pick up Mr Assange - unless he can win on appeal.

If his lawyers cannot get a hearing back before judges in London, he could petition the European Court of Human Rights.

Ten years ago it ruled extradition to the US would not breach human rights - but expect the Wikileaks founder to try fresh arguments not heard back then.
If, as I see it, the BBC has largely gone cold on Julian Assange, there are exceptions. The BBC's World Affairs Editor, a certain John Simpson, remains loyal and has come out for his publicly-declared friend once more today, ignoring the BBC's guidelines on commenting on matters of public controversy and tweeting:
Journalists in Britain and elsewhere will be very worried by the decision to extradite Julian Assange to the US — both for his own well-being & for the precedent it creates for journalism worldwide.

A tweet from ex-BBC/Newsnight whistleblower Meirion Jones tonight, meanwhile, casts a clarifying light on how things were a decade or so ago, when views of Julian Assange were rather different:

All media that were in on Wikileaks should be calling for Assange extradition to be stopped. That includes BBC - I know because I was courier between David Leigh's Kings Place bunker & Beeb World Affairs Unit for diplo leaks ahead of release 29/10/10.

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