The Price of Freedom


No, not price in any metaphorical sense – literally. One day after the arrest of Julian Assange, where he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the International Monetary Fund (seen by many as a financial arm of the US) approved a $4.2 billion loan for Ecuador. $4.2 billion is the price to pay for cooperation in silencing dissidence and tearing down the peoples’ right to expose their governments.

There have been many reactions to Assange’s arrest. Noam Chomsky referred to it as an unprecedented, but not unexpected, scandal. Journalists across the spectrum of opinion were either outraged or pleased, with the latter reluctant to even call Assange and WikiLeaks journalists as well (Fairfax in Australia has been pretty negative about his accomplishments). Seeing Americans’ responses online has been troubling, although also not unexpected. Republican or Democrat, they appear to be stuck in the mentality of it’s good when WikiLeaks exposed the crimes of their opposition, but a wretched abuse when their own side is revealed to have done similar wrongs.

I generally avoid delving into the whole ‘only one opinion is the right one here’ attitude, but in this case it’s not possible. Like Assange or not, he, WikiLeaks, and whistleblowers such as Manning and Snowden have provided an invaluable service to the world – shining a light on the dark dealings of power. To those in power, this is unacceptable. Now, Assange has been arrested on some flimsy accusation; Manning is imprisoned again, this time for contempt of court by refusing to speak in a secretive grand jury to answer questions she already answered during her court martial; Snowden has been in exile in Russia since he escaped the US.

If after all of this you can still look at WikiLeaks and condemn them, then enjoy your propaganda, because those of us in reality are furious. It is the US that is out of line – this arrest is also a show of unbridled power.

What other country could supply billions of dollars to a country (Ecuador) to abandon someone who claimed asylum? Who could use another nation’s police force (the UK) to carry out an illegal arrest to force extradition? None – only the US. If any other country even attempted such a shocking manoeuvre, such as China or Russia, the US would be screaming about it.

It has been known for a while, but in case you needed more proof – the US is a rogue state, an international thug.

This isn’t about whether you like Assange as a person, and it certainly isn’t about whether the big bad WikiLeaks released documents pertaining to your favourite shade of authoritarian oligarchs. Any charges against whistleblowers, no matter who or where they are, is an attack on everyone’s freedoms.

Here in Australia, Witness K, who exposed our government’s efforts to spy on Timor-Leste during negotiations, has been kept under wraps. Richard Boyle, who exposed corrupt and unethical conduct within the Australian Tax Office, is facing over 150 years in prison.

All of these whistleblowers have revealed information that is absolutely within the public’s interest. In a properly free and just world, those who partake in criminal or unethical activity should be punished when caught. Instead, those who work to expose this conduct are demonised and/or hidden away.

Freedom is just too inconvenient for the powers that be. And now it has a price.

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Previous piece: Assange Arrested – Australia Must Step Forward

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