Summit for Democracy host prosecutes publisher for sharing accurate news

President Joe Biden convened governments, civil society groups, and the private sector to discuss bold, practical ways to strengthen democracy during his Summit for Democracy, which he used to outline a five-point plan to support freedom worldwide that includes measures to bolster independent media and combat corruption.

“Democracy needs champions,” said Biden from the White House in a first-of-its-kind virtual event. “In the United States, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy … requires constant effort.”

But while the U.S. government says it will increase its engagement with an intergovernmental partnership working to advocate for media freedom, the administration continues to target one of the world’s most prominent journalists, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

The pursuit of Assange has been going on since 2010, when Wikileaks published hundreds of thousands of embarrassing diplomatic cables and exposed military lies about the 2007 killing of two Reuters news agency journalists in Baghdad.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, holding the UN arbitrary-detention report on his case in this 2016 photo, lost his fight in a British court to prevent his extradition to the United States,  where he will face charges of violating the Espionage Act for publishing thousands of pages of classified State Department diplomatic cables and Pentagon records and about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including video that exposed military lies.

“If killing journalists trying to prosecute those who share truthful information about such facts did not clue you in, this country is losing ground on the whole ‘truth, justice and the American way’ thing,” said Democratic Party strategist James J, Devine, who was publisher of New Jersey’s oldest weekly newspaper. “Out of 180 countries on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the U.S. ranks 44th—suggesting that maybe the leader of the free world needs a booster shot if journalism is the vaccine against disinformation.”

Increasingly hostile verbal attacks on the press from public officials and others, bomb threats and suspicious packages sent to newsrooms, and the government’s repeated attempts to deny the press access to events of public interest are some of the reasons for this decline, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The first 100 days of Joseph R. Biden’s presidency saw healthy improvements to government accountability and transparency, but that was simply an amelioration of the recklessness, depravity and perversions of his predecessor.

For example, the White House and government agencies reinstated regular press briefings from day one and authorities, who had previously been muzzled, were able to communicate accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic to the American public.

At his inauguration, Biden vowed to uphold an environment of truth and during his first, major foreign policy speech, the new president made a point of stating that “a free press is essential to the health of democracy,” signaling his administration’s desire to see the U.S. reclaim its global status as a beacon of free expression.

As with any patient, however, while the most obvious symptoms of an ailing democracy may have cleared up, many chronic, underlying conditions — from the disappearance of local news to the ongoing and widespread distrust of mainstream media — remain.

In fact, the situation worsened considerably during President Donald J. Trump’s final year in office, which saw nearly 400 journalists assaulted and more than 130 detained —unprecedented numbers according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Many of 2020’s attacks and arrests of members of the media took place as they tried to cover the nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality towards people of color.

Trump himself vilified bonafide news outfits as “fake news” and qualified award-winning journalists as the “enemy of the people,” feeding the type of threatening behavior, including violence and the destruction of equipment, that journalists faced during the uprising against the US Capitol Building on 6 January 2021.

As dozens of Trump-loving terrorists involved in the insurrection face jail time for federal crimes, the erosion of trust in the American media and unchecked conspiracy theories that continue to flourish online will require a concerted effort by all parties—the public sector and private companies alike—to ensure that press freedom in the US runs more than just skin deep.

The Biden Department of Justice’s decision to pursue an appeal against the extradition decision by a UK court in the case of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange resulted in his continued detention in high-security Belmarsh prison, where his mental and physical health remains at risk.

Biden’s Justice Department assured the British courts that Assange can be put on trial in the United States despite his mental health issues, ignoring shocking revelations that senior CIA officials during the Trump administration discussed abducting and even assassinating WikiLeaks founder.

If the US government appeal is successful, Assange could face a possible lifetime in a US prison for publishing accurate information in the public interest.

The US lags far behind many other developed countries on health outcomes, life expectancy, maternal mortality, trust, and so on

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