A scandal and a crisis in British journalism

Jacob Ecclestone and Bernie Corbet, two veterans British journalists and activists,  reflect on the media’s catastrophic failure to respond to the Julian Assange trial.

‘The Assange “trial”,’ they argue, ‘is comparable to that of Dreyfus, with our “free’” press betraying both the word itself and their readers and viewers.’

[updated 27 September]

There is a scandal and a crisis in British journalism. For the past three weeks or so a crucial extradition hearing has been taking place in the Central Criminal Court in London. You won’t know about it if you rely for your news on the established newspapers, the BBC or ITV or Channel 4. They have the resources to report it but they are not doing so.

You still wouldn’t know if you followed any of the many online news operations, which don’t have the resources to cover a major trial.

The case revolves around Julian Assange, of Wikileaks; and the government of the United States of America, which wishes to extradite this pioneering journalist and revealer of the truth and put him into a horrible prison until he dies.

Apparently there are about ten journalists regularly attending the court and taking notes, but as far as we know only one of them is publishing serious accounts of the ridiculous and disgraceful procedures. The vast majority of the public are unaware the proceedings are even taking place, let alone the distortion of justice that is happening in plain sight.

This is a case about free speech, exposure of wicked secrets, and the ability of journalists to operate in society. Yet journalists themselves are turning their backs on it. It almost seems as if they hope Assange will be taken away, removed from public view, and they will be left to plough their establishment furrow without being troubled by an outlier who showed us that some things are not as they appear.

Journalists should be covering the proceedings day by day, exposing the lengths and depths to which American and British politicians, lawyers and journalists are colluding.

The only journalist who is doing this is Craig Murray, formerly the UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, whose blog probably has a small readership, and who himself is in jeopardy of prison because of his fearless exposure of establishment corruption and lying. To lifelong journalists and trade unionists like us, Murray’s court reporting is amazing in its detail and analysis. Anybody who cares about truth and justice should read every word.

The Assange “trial” is comparable to that of Dreyfus, with our “free” press betraying both the word itself and their readers and viewers. The more that people round the world are able to read what is going on, the greater the pressure on our government. Our judiciary is being corrupted and our judicial system poisoned at the behest of Trump and as a result we are sliding towards fascism. Please do all you can to give “the oxygen of publicity” to this grotesque persecution of Assange.

We are both retired. Jacob was a journalist and union leader on the pre-Murdoch Times for 20 years and then the deputy general secretary of the National Union of Journalists from 1980 to 1997. Bernie was a senior journalist on the Birmingham Post, Guardian and Independent, then editor of the NUJ newspaper “Journalist”, then an organiser, negotiator and case worker for the NUJ, then general secretary of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain from 2000 to 2016.

We might be old but we can still smell injustice and we are incredulous that the present generation of journalists is ignoring this critical travesty.

Please help.

With good wishes

Jacob Ecclestone
Bernie Corbett

Comments (30)

  • Mary Davies says:

    …and we live in a so called democracy. The British State is torturing Julian Assange and I fear for his life.

  • Julian says:

    Agreed. This is a grotesque travesty. It shows that the press is merely stenographers for the oligarchs who run British society and Assange – our Carl Bernstein – is going be thrown into an oubliette for the rest of his – probably short – life, given his health problems.

  • TM says:

    Let us also remember we have a Leader of the Labour Party who condones the imprisonment and extradition of Julian Assange. But, yes, the Media propaganda (I cannot call it journalism) have in Jack London’s words corkscrew hearts. Thank goodness for journalists like Murray, Pilger and Cooke. And, of course, Ecclestone and Corbett.

  • Being old and having an analytic intelligence is a powerful combination! One can align this with experience and the rare quality of being able to think for one`s self.
    You rightly deplore the lack of coverage on the Assange trial. This is no surprise to me!
    I was fifteen when I read a quote from a leading nazi , minister for propaganda in Hitlers Germany. He said
    “The people are dull and will believe what they are told”
    I believed that then and fifty years on I know now even more how true that is. I do not support the nazis but they were masters of propaganda.
    We are told only what those who are in power choose to tell us. We are also told only what they choose not to tell us.
    I only wish I could alert others to this but I still feel that if the truth were told about Assange then there would be massive support

  • Jon Grunewald says:

    I don’t see this as a JVL issue. Assange is a controversial figure. His indiscriminate leaks of confidential material did some good (the Collateral Murder video) and much bad (ensuring that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, perhaps putting in danger some civilians who helped the American military) and I think he has good lawyers to represent him and I hope he manages to avoid extradition. Ultimately it is for our courts to decide, purely on the law, and I’m sure that if he does go to the USA he will be provided with excellent legal representation there. There is no resemblance whatsoever between Assange and Dreyfus. Our judiciary is not corrupted nor is our judicial system poisoned. Just let the courts get on with their job – they are truly the custodians of our liberties at a time when our government disregards Parliament and allows a certain Chief Adviser to make most of the decisions.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I have no doubt that what Jacob Ecclestone and Bernie Corbett say is, in general, true, but funnily enough (not ha ha) I did a search on the Mail’s website last night and, as such, was more than a little surprised to find they have in fact published quite a few articles in relation to the extradition hearing at the Old Bailey. I didn’t read any of them, and I didn’t count up how many there were, but there were definitely about seven or eight articles related directly to the hearing. One of them, for example, was headlined ”WikiLeaks’ Assange was careful to protect informants, court hears’, and another was headlined ‘US informants not harmed by leaked documents, Assange extradition hearing told’. And as you may know, Peter Hitchens wrote a lengthy article a couple of weeks ago entitled ‘My Defence of Julian Assange’, which is well worth reading (apart from the initial part!)

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8725993/PETER-HITCHENS-argues-extraditing-Julian-Assange-threatens-press-freedom.html

    But THIS is what I was looking for – ie black propaganda designed to demonise and dehumanise Julian. It’s from yesterday, and I haven’t got round to reading it yet, as such, but the headline says it all anyway:

    Blowing the whistle on the Wiki-creep: Julian Assange fled rape charges, groped women and leered at teenage girls – yet will try to beat extradition. Before you judge the morality of WikiLeaks, read this devastating expose first

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8774327/Before-judge-morality-WikiLeaks-read-devastating-expose-first.html

    And the demonisation and dehumanisation has been going on for years of course, including the Tory MP Alan Duncan describing him as a ‘miserable little worm’ in March 2018, which was of course widely reported in the MSM:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/julian-assange-wikileaks-miserable-little-worm-sir-alan-duncan-russia-ecaudor-embassy-a8276666.html

  • John Spencer-Davis says:

    Reporters Kevin Gosztola (Shadowproof) and James Doleman (Byline Times) are also covering the trial. See @kgosztola and @jamesdoleman on Twitter. Mr Gosztola has also produced a guide to the journalists who are covering the trial here:

    https://shadowproof.com/2020/09/21/guide-to-journalists-assange-trial-upset-by-media-blackout/

  • Rosalie says:

    If Assange is deported Trump will have won a travesty of justice exposed for all to see and our complicity laid bare Stand up for truth and justice

  • JanP says:

    Julian Assange has been successfully smeared, in particular by the false accusations of rape, followed by frivolous articles about his life in the Ecuadorean embassy.
    To the public he appears to be of a shady dubious character. This needs to be challenged face on and then people to be clearly reminded of the truth he has exposed.
    Where can this be published? I don’t know.

  • Ann Lewis says:

    I had no idea this was happening . It is deeply troubling.What to do?

  • TM says:

    I forgot to mention the outrage our new leaders expressed when they rallied to the cry “Freedom of the Press” at XR’s temporary closure of some Corporate papers. Then they released a call for the closure of RT which has been giving full coverage to the Assange Trial. And on our own doorstep they are attempting to close down “Freedom of Speech” in our own Branches and CLPs. Long live the Resistance!

  • rc says:

    Craig Murray’s (it would seem perfectly valid)application to rejoin the NUJ has been sidetracked; trade unions are far from perfect – or sometimes, even prepared to accept members in the relevant trade.
    Plenty of room for reform and democratisation there as well.

  • Myriam Vandelanotte says:

    Thanks a lot for yuor analysis of this trial against julian Assange. I join completely your observation in this matter and I’m distressed about the general reaction. I live in Brussels and share as often as possible my opinion with a lot of people around: friends, young ones, family to make them aware with this uggly reality and explaining the whole content of Julian Assange’role, his innocense and goodwill. I will share you paper and thank you for your support to this unic man which is julian Assange.

  • Solly Jacquesson says:

    You have said it all and I am in total agreement what you have stated about our true and honest political prisoner Julian Assange.

  • Susan Greaves says:

    Dear Jacob and Bernie,
    Completely in agreement. Please tell us what is the most useful thing we can do.
    Susie Greaves

  • anthony jefferies says:

    Readers should note that it is not the character of Assange that is on trial here. From what I have read, it is the show trial aspect that is the demon in this scenario and the conspiracy to extradite at any cost. Now if you do want to criticize character have a look at Trump’s and why this is important to him

  • Ann Batiza says:

    Thank you. Time is of the essence. And for those who say “let justice take its course,” I recommend reading the daily summaries of the trial by @CraigMurray or accessing comments by @NilsMelzer , the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture who detailed the judicial malfeasance of each government involved (letters to U.K./ US/ Sweden and Ecuador are posted at the UN’s website.). There is nothing fair and judicious about this show trial. This is Trump’s war on journalism that will kill a free press. What will it take for the American people to see that?

  • Ian Hickinbottom says:

    Totally agree with the article.
    I have to take to task the comments by Jon Grunewald. This is definitely a JVL issue. It is an issue for every right minded person across the world. This trial is a travesty of Justice and Assange is a political prisoner. His crime, jumping bail, would be a short jail term at most and served in an open prison. Instead he has been held at a maximum security prison in solitary confinement. That is torture, pure and simple. If you read Craig Murray excellent reports from the court, you will clearly see the bias from the judge working against Assange and his legal team.
    This trial is a farce and history will show it as Britains “Dreyfus” moment. Make no mistake if Trump and USA get their way, Assange will die in solitary confinement in a maximum security hall hole. It will also serve the bigger purpose of silencing any other journalists and preventing the publication of war crimes and other horrors committed by those in power, supposedly in the name of democracy.

  • Roshan Pedder says:

    I must say I found Jon Grunewald’s comments naive at best. He need only read the excellent article by Jonathan cook on this site to see why there is a plethora of reasons why justice is not being served. Jon says that ULTIMATELY (my emphasis) it is for our courts to decide. Yes Jon, and in the meantime while this could go on for years, Julian Assange, against all precedent for bail violation is being locked up in the highest security prison in this country and kept there in solitary confinement for 23 of 24 hours. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture has made official statements that Assange has been subjected to psychological torture which was developed by the Nazis when they found that physical torture did not have the required outcome. His findings were made in conjunction with two doctors who specialise in diagnosing symptoms of psychological torture. Julian’s health has deteriorated terribly under these conditions. This alone makes ‘justice’ a mockery.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Jon Grunewald: Could you elaborate as to why you say that Julian is a ‘controversial figure’? You then go on to say that Julian/Wikileaks made sure that Hilary Clinton lost the presidential election AND that he ‘perhaps’ put some civilians who helped the American military in ‘danger’. No he did NOT, and this is just black propaganda lies dissembled by the US war-mongers and the corporate media et al. Julian did everything he could to make sure that names etc were redacted AND that no-one was put in danger as such. Even the Daily Mail covered it:

    To quote:

    John Goetz, an investigative reporter who worked for Germany’s Spiegel magazine on the first publication of the documents, said the U.S. State Department had been involved in a conference call suggesting redactions, and WikiLeaks had agreed to hold back about 15,000 documents for publication.
    “There was sensitivity and it was one of the things that was talked about all the time,” Goetz told the court. Assange was concerned that the media should take measures “so no one would be harmed”, he said.
    Goetz said WikiLeaks was later frustrated when a password that allowed access to the full, unredacted material was published in a book by Guardian reporters in February 2011.

    And another quote from a Medium article:

    A key government witness during the Chelsea Manning trial [in 2013], Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, testified under oath that no one was hurt as a consequence of the publication of the files. Additionally, the Defense Secretary at the time, Robert M Gates, said that the leaks were “awkward” and “embarrassing” but the consequences for US foreign policy were “fairly modest”. It was also leaked at the time that insiders were saying the damage was limited and “containable”, and they were exaggerating the damage in an attempt to get Manning punished more severely.

    You REALLY should do your research FIRST Jon before repeating such blatantly obvious disinformation concocted and contrived for the blatantly obvious reason!

  • Doug says:

    Jay Henderson
    ‘The people are dull and will believe what they are told’
    Stanley Johnson took it to another level in the 2019 GE, he accused the Great British People of being thick and uneducated
    Which they promptly proved to be true by giving the cheap and nasty Tory party an 80 seat majority
    My experience of the GE was a voter swearing they could not vote for Corbyn, despite being a Labour voter all their lives
    I then asked who they voted for in 2017, Labour of course I always vote Labour !

  • Allan Howard says:

    And here’s another example of demonising and dehumanising Julian, on this occasion by Stephen Glover in August 2015:

    Why are we wasting millions on a cowardly sleazebag like Julian Assange?

    The villain of the piece is of course Assange himself, a cowardly and devious sleazeball who refuses to submit himself to justice. His justification is that if he goes to Sweden to face the music he may be extradited to America. Many feel his actions compromised Western security, and may have put the lives of U.S. servicemen at risk…..

    At another point in his despicable piece Glover refers to Julian as an ‘egotistical monster’, and further on he says the following:

    Ecuador, whose economy is about the size of Greater Manchester’s, has been run by a Jeremy Corbyn-like character called Rafael Correa for the past eight years. His greatest joy is poking a stick in the eye of the United States and its ally Britain. Hence the offer to Assange of a billet in the London embassy.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3195872/STEPHEN-GLOVER-wasting-millions-cowardly-sleazebag-like-Julian-Assange.html

    Anyway, I just forced myself to read the DM hit-piece I linked to in my initial comment, but I’m not going to bother addressing each and every falsehood and smear in it, except to say that the author of the hit-piece, Richard Pendlebury, reiterates the Big Lie (repeated on numerous occasions by the MSM) that Julian was charged with rape, as he does in the headline. Julian was never charged with anything, let alone rape by the Swedish prosecutor, and in fact the FIRST prosecutor who dealt with the case concluded that ‘There was no case to answer’.

  • I am heart wrenchingly grateful to read your article. Please could you send it to other Jewish newspapers eg . Australia, where Julian has been thrown under a bus by the current prime minister. New Zealand, USA – to programs like Morning Joe and Rachel Maddow. Thank you, Sarolta Elizabeth Kérészy

  • James Dickins says:

    The American online newspaper Consortium News (founded by Robert Parry, who exposed the Iran-Contra scandal) has been covering the Assange trial in depth – and is well worth reading:
    https://consortiumnews.com/

  • Anjana Mangalagiri says:

    The true face of the so called free press couldn’t be better exposed! Shame! Thanks for bringing the ongoing trial to light.

  • Allan Howard says:

    In his post Jon Grunewald says the following:

    ‘Ultimately it is for our courts to decide, purely on the law, and I’m sure that if he does go to the USA he will be provided with excellent legal representation there. There is no resemblance whatsoever between Assange and Dreyfus. Our judiciary is not corrupted nor is our judicial system poisoned. Just let the courts get on with their job – they are truly the custodians of our liberties…….’

    If Julian is extradited to the USA Jon, it matters not a jot how excellent or otherwise his legal team are, he will be found guity and end up spending the rest of his life in prison AND in solitary confinement. As for our judiciary not being corrupted, either you HAVEN’T been following the extradition hearing or you are trying to mislead anyone who hasn’t. The whole thing has been a travesty of justice from the outset!

    ‘Let the courts get on with their job’ you say….. WHO do you think you’re kidding!? As for them ‘truely being the custodians of our liberties’, well if THAT were the case, it wouldn’t be Julian that was in the dock and facing the rest of his life in a hell-hole…….!

  • Allan Howard says:

    The following are a couple of passages from an article by John Pilger published by Counterpunch in February this year:

    Keir Starmer is currently running for election as leader of the Labour Party in Britain. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Director of Public Prosecutions and responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service. According to Freedom of Information searches by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, Sweden tried to drop the Assange case in 2011, but a CPS official in London told the Swedish prosecutor not to treat it as “just another extradition”.

    In 2012, she received an email from the CPS: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!” Other CPS emails were either deleted or redacted…….

    ________________________

    What was that you were saying about justice and liberties Jon? And here’s the second passage, which I’m sure will be of interest:

    WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens…..

    It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists.

    For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East — terrorism.

    One email disclosed that Islamic State (ISIS) was bankrolled by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”…….

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/02/18/julian-assange-must-be-freed-not-betrayed/

  • Robert McCombe says:

    Thank you for shining a spotlight on this egregious, state sponsored attack on Assange and his battle to uphold investigative journalism and freedom of the press.

  • Eric Gordon says:

    How can I contact Jacob Ecclestone?
    I would like him to write a piece for my paper.

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