John Pilger, an investigative journalist and close friend of Julian Assange, recently delivered a powerful address in Sydney at the launch of Davide Dormino’s sculpture of Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden. Pilger spoke about his personal connection to Assange and the ongoing efforts to silence him and his important contributions to journalism.
Pilger fondly recalls his first encounter with Assange in 2010, where he was struck by his wit and wisdom. Over the years, Pilger has witnessed countless attempts by the state to suppress Assange’s work. Pilger even found himself on a list of volunteers willing to stand bail for Assange, a fact that a judge at the Royal Courts of Justice pointed out to him during a hearing.
Pilger recently visited Assange at Belmarsh prison, where they spoke about books and laughed to momentarily forget the oppressive conditions. But the reality of Julian’s situation quickly washed over them as the prison guards signaled that their time was up. Assange, a symbol of unwavering courage, held his fist high and clenched as Pilger left the room.
Pilger criticizes Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for his lack of action regarding Assange’s plight. While Albanese expressed sympathy for Assange’s situation before being elected, he now avoids taking a firm stance, fearing repercussions from the US. Pilger yearns for a courageous and moral leader who will demand Assange’s release without conditions.
Pilger also shines a light on the history of Australia’s abandonment of Assange. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard colluded with the US government and wanted the Australian Federal Police to arrest Assange for his publishing activities. Thankfully, the AFP acknowledged that Assange had committed no crime. This abandonment by Gillard and subsequent leaders illustrates Australia’s surrender of sovereignty.
Pilger argues that the treatment of Assange is a reflection of Australia’s servility towards the US. The country is currently arming itself for a potential war with China, a move that is both unnecessary and detrimental to bilateral relations. Furthermore, Australia’s increasing secrecy and erosion of rights, exemplified by the passing of numerous laws since 2001, mirror the actions of the US.
In Pilger’s view, Julian Assange, along with other truth-tellers like Bernard Collaery and David McBride, are the true heroes of Australia. They have risked everything to expose injustice and protect the public’s right to know. Pilger calls on Albanese to prioritize Assange’s freedom and resist becoming a mere pawn of the US.
Pilger concludes by emphasizing that the issue at hand is not just about a free press, as the press is no longer free. Rather, it is about justice and the fundamental human right to be free. Failure to secure Assange’s release would signify Australia’s loss of sovereignty and its transformation into a subservient nation to the US.
In these challenging times, it is crucial that leaders like Albanese demonstrate moral courage and advocate for Assange’s freedom. The world is watching, and history will judge the actions taken in this critical moment.