At the July 10/11 Jeremy Hunt’s Grim Joke – ‘Global Media Freedom’ Conference in London
Report by Maxine Walker
The Julian Assange Defence Committee and INMINDS supporters gathered in protest outside the laughably titled Global Media Freedom Conference today in London. A grim joke indeed as this Foreign Office-organised Conference was held just 7 miles from where Julian Assange is imprisoned and isolated in Belmarsh high-security prison.
1000 journalists are attending the Conference. We made sure that they could not ignore Julian Assange and our picket of around 30 people attracted some attention from delegates. It was highly visible with many banners and placards. Our message? ‘Media Freedom? What about Julian Assange’? Some of us wore gags.
The Conference is hosted by the intellectual and moral vacuum that is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He has already made clear his approval of Assange’s extradition. He has said: “Julian Assange is no hero. He has hidden from the truth for years and years”. No Mr Hunt, you have this upside down. He has exposed the truth about the Western war machine – a truth you wish to hide. Hence his persecution and torture by the UK and USA. The Wikileaks release of the Collateral Murder video showed civilians being murdered by US forces in Iraq. Amongst those murdered were two Reuter’s journalists.
Julian Assange was mentioned inside the Conference – it would have looked excessively odd to not at least mention him. Speaker, Amal Clooney said: ‘The indictment against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has alarmed journalists at newspapers around the world’…. for criminalising ‘common practices in journalism that have long served the public interest.’
At this ‘Global Media Freedom’ event, the Foreign Office banned Russia Today and Sputnik from attending, accusing them of ‘disinformation’. As Julian Assange’s mother commented: ‘Maybe RT was too zealous in practising “media freedom” by reporting the FACTS of the political persecution of my son journalist Julian Assange.’
One of Hunt’s major roles as Foreign Secretary has been to sell arms to Saudi Arabia for use in its war in Yemen which has killed tens of thousands of people and created a humanitarian disaster. The UK could not be closer to the Saudi despots. This despite UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s report on the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi in which she cites “credible evidence” of the involvement of high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is set to greet world leaders in Saudi Arabia at the next G20 summit. Just business as usual.
For journalists to think that media freedom is advanced by such an event is a grave mistake. It is to succumb to the clammy embrace of the very forces that are set on suppressing dissident voices in the press and elsewhere. Had they looked at the pavement outside their jamboree they would have seen the people who actually stand for Julian Assange and for genuine media freedom.
With many thanks to Ezra for doing the call out and organising the event and to Wendy for the photographs and the handmade gags and posters.