We are now in the middle of a defining point in human history – an increasing struggle between those who believe that information should be free and those who wish to control it – for many reasons (political, commercial, religious). Nothing fundamental has changed – this country like many others has millennia of history of protest. I have been brought up in traditions where – ultimately – people may have to suffer for their beliefs.
If you haven’t time to read my apologia – just go to the petition… http://www.avaaz.org/en/wikileaks_petition/?vl
One of our fundamental rights – trial by jury – was won by those who refused to accept the arbitrary power of the state. From Wikipedia:
[in 1670] Penn demonstrated no remorse for his aggressive stance and vowed to keep fighting against the wrongs of the Church and the King. For its part, the Crown continued to confiscate Quaker property and put thousands of Quakers in jail. From then on, Penn’s religious views effectively exiled him from English society; he was sent down (expelled) from Christ Church, Oxford for being a Quaker, and was arrested several times. Among the most famous of these was the trial following his 1670 arrest with William Meade. Penn was accused of preaching before a gathering in the street, which Penn had deliberately provoked in order to test the validity of the new law against assembly. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge (the Lord Mayor of London) refused – even though this right was guaranteed by the law. Furthermore, the judge directed the jury to come to a verdict without hearing the defence.
Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict Penn, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty”. When invited by the judge to reconsider their verdict and to select a new foreman, they refused and were sent to a cell over several nights to mull over their decision. The Lord Mayor then told the jury, “You shall go together and bring in another verdict, or you shall starve”, and not only had Penn sent to jail in loathsome Newgate Prison (on a charge of contempt of court), but the full jury followed him, and they were additionally fined the equivalent of a year’s wages each. The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison in what became known as Bushel’s Case, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges. This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see jury nullification) and was a victory for the use of the writ of habeas corpus as a means of freeing those unlawfully detained.
I was brought up in this tradition and was prepared to go to jail rather than be conscripted into the armed forces. One of my scientific and spiritual heroes, Kathleen Lonsdale (the first female member of the Royal Society) went to prison during the war for refusing to watch for enemy aircraft. So if Julian Assange is jailed, it is in a long tradition of protest and reform through personal sacrifice.
For the last 10 years I have expected this battle for freedom to appear. It’s not just the Internet – it’s the control of thought through the new media. The misuse of copyright for commercial control. The digital goldrush where large corporations can claim rights to the public domain. It’s been bubbling for several years and now it’s erupted.
It is difficult to see a middle ground. Either information is free, or we are information slaves – able to do and say only what our masters say. The Military-Industrial-Media complex, perhaps?
Ultimately Penn won through the good sense of individuals in the judicial system in this country. The supreme courts will have to decide our question. Before they do I expect that people will go to jail.
Here’s the justification for the Wikileaks petition.
The chilling intimidation campaign against WikiLeaks (when they have broken no laws) is an attack on freedom of the press and democracy. We urgently need a massive public outcry to stop the crackdown — let’s get to 1 million voices and take out full page ads in US newspapers this week!
The massive campaign of intimidation against WikiLeaks is sending a chill through free press advocates everywhere.
Legal experts say WikiLeaks has likely broken no laws. Yet top US politicians have called it a terrorist group and commentators have urged assassination of its staff. The organization has come under massive government and corporate attack, but WikiLeaks is only publishing information provided by a whistleblower. And it has partnered with the world’s leading newspapers (NYT, Guardian, Spiegel etc) to carefully vet the information it publishes.
The massive extra-judicial intimidation of WikiLeaks is an attack on democracy. We urgently need a public outcry for freedom of the press and expression. Sign the petition to stop the crackdown and forward this email to everyone — let’s get to 1 million voices and take out full page ads in US newspapers this week!
WikiLeaks isn’t acting alone — it’s partnered with the top newspapers in the world (New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc) to carefully review 250,000 US diplomatic cables and remove any information that it is irresponsible to publish. Only 800 cables have been published so far. Past WikiLeaks publications have exposed government-backed torture, the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and corporate corruption.
The US government is currently pursuing all legal avenues to stop WikiLeaks from publishing more cables, but the laws of democracies protect freedom of the press. The US and other governments may not like the laws that protect our freedom of expression, but that’s exactly why it’s so important that we have them, and why only a democratic process can change them.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether WikiLeaks and the leading newspapers it’s partnered with are releasing more information than the public should see. Whether the releases undermine diplomatic confidentiality and whether that’s a good thing. Whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has the personal character of a hero or a villain. But none of this justifies a vicious campaign of intimidation to silence a legal media outlet by governments and corporations. Click below to join the call to stop the crackdown:
Ever wonder why the media so rarely gives the full story of what happens behind the scenes? This is why – because when they do, governments can be vicious in their response. And when that happens, it’s up to the public to stand up for our democratic rights to a free press and freedom of expression. Never has there been a more vital time for us to do so.
Ricken, Emma, Alex, Alice, Maria Paz and the rest of the Avaaz team.
Law experts say WikiLeaks in the clear (ABC)
WikiLeaks are a bunch of terrorists, says leading U.S. congressman (Mail Online)
Cyber guerrillas can help US (Financial Times)
Amazon drops WikiLeaks under political pressure (Yahoo)
“WikiLeaks avenged by hacktivists” (PC World):
US Gov shows true control over Internet with WikiLeaks containment (Tippett.org)
US embassy cables culprit should be executed, says Mike Huckabee (The Guardian)
WikiLeaks ditched by MasterCard, Visa. Who’s next? (The Christian Science Monitor)
Assange’s Interpol Warrant Is for Having Sex Without a Condom (The Slatest)
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