Saturday, June 23, 2012

Letter To UK Press Complaints Commission

UPDATE 6:  Despite two years of constant UK media smears against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, the UK Press Complaints Commission has refused to examine my complaint. It falsely suggests that I was complaining about "an article in The Guardian" even though I made it very clear from the beginning that my complaint related to a long series of abusive articles from multiple UK sources (but especially The Guardian).

Fellow complainant, Steve Perry, received an identical response on the same day, as the PCC had lumped our separate complaints together.

1st August 2012:

Commission’s decision in the case of
Lord/Perry v The Guardian

The complainants objected to the newspaper’s publication of an article that was, in their view, an assault on the character of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

In this instance, the complainants’ concerns related most closely to the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of Editors’ Code of Practice. Under the terms of this Clause, newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate information, and must correct a significantly inaccurate or misleading statement promptly, and with due prominence.

The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s concerns, both about the article under complaint, and in relation to the newspaper’s coverage more generally; however, Mr Julian Assange is aware of the Commission’s services, and had not submitted a complaint about this particular article. The absence of a complaint from Mr Assange imposed practical constraints on the Commission pursuing this matter further; in particular, any remedial action that could be required of the newspaper in order to satisfy its obligations under the Code – for example, by the publication of an apology – would need to be approved before publication by Mr Assange, and in circumstances where he had not submitted a complaint, this clearly would not be possible. As such, the Commission could not comment on the complaint further.

Reference no.122705/122706
*

The PCC decision was accompanied by the following email:

Dear Mr Lord

Further to our previous correspondence, the Commission has now considered your complaint about an article in The Guardian. It has decided that it is not possible, in the circumstances, to examine your complaint further under the Editors’ Code of Practice.

As we have made clear previously, the Commission generally deals only with complaints from those directly involved. On this occasion, it did not consider that it could waive its rules and investigate your third party complaint further. Its decision on this matter is below.

Although the Commission has come to this view, it has asked me to send a copy of your letter to the editor so that the publication is aware of your concerns.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled you should write within one month to the Independent Reviewer, whose details can be found in our How to Complain leaflet or on the PCC website at the following link:


We are grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to consider your concerns.

Yours sincerely

Sean Goldstein
Sean.Goldstein@pcc.org.uk

*

Obviously this is a waste of time, but it does at least publicly illustrate that the UK Press Complaints Commission is a waste of taxpayer funds. I shall of course reply forthwith...



UPDATE 5: 1st August 2012:

Dear Mr Lord

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that your complaint was sent to the Commission for a formal ruling under the Editors’ Code on 20 July, 2012. It is my expectation that the Commission’s decision will be with you before the end of the week.

You are welcome to contact me in the meantime, if you have any further questions.

Regards

Sean Goldstein
Complaints Officer

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

Tel: 020 7831 0022
Website: www.pcc.org.uk

UPDATE 4: 1st August 2012:


Sir or Madam,

It has been almost a month since Simon Yip advised me that the Press Commission was considering my complaint about the UK media's treatment of Julian Assange. I am still awaiting a further response.

Meanwhile, the media continues to publish hostile stories smearing and ridiculing Mr Assange. For example, the latest from The Guardian: http://t.co/Bk2SZRs7

Lest you forget, Mr Assange remains holed up in the Ecaudorian Embassy in London, in far from ideal conditions.

Please be aware that the world is watching these events unfold. We see how the UK media is complicit in pursuing government agendas, and we expect watchdog agencies like yourselves to take an active role if British democracy is supposed to remain respected around the globe.

Regards,

Gary Lord
Australia

UPDATE 3: An encouraging response at last! July 3, 2012:

Dear Mr Lord

Thank you for your email.

We will now ask the Commission whether it wishes to take your complaint forward as an independent complaint. We will write to you further about this matter as soon as possible.

In the meantime, should you have any queries or require any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7831 0022.

Yours sincerely


Simon Yip
Complaints Coordinator

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

Tel: 020 7831 0022
Website: www.pcc.org.uk

UPDATE 2: I just sent the following reply. June 28 2012:

Simon,

I am surprised at your reply for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Julian Assange has already submitted a lengthy history of abuse to the Leveson inquiry. Is the UK Press Complaints Commission not aware of this submission and the contents thereof?

My own complaint was merely scratching the surface of this appalling, prolonged, public attack on a man who has not even been charged with ANYTHING despite 560 days under house arrest. I would ask you to take a close look at this recent article from Medialens, which details many more direct personal smears from UK journalists, in both a personal and professional capacity: http://t.co/IdW4w8fR

Secondly, you might be aware that Mr Assange is currently hold up in the Embassy of Ecuador, seeking asylum. Under the circumstances, it's quite bizarre that you expect him to post a complaint on his own behalf. Furthermore, you might have noticed that the abuse has NOT been directed just at Mr Assange, but also others working for WikiLeaks, and also at supporters like myself (The Guardian's Nick Cohen said we are all paranoid). Under the circumstances I don't see why you are not able to open a formal complaint process based on the information I have provided.

The eyes of the world are on both Mr Assange and the British media at the moment, and surely it is your job to ensure that decent standards are applied.

Kind regards,

Gary Lord
Twitter: @Jaraparilla 

UPDATE 1: I just got the following response to my letter of complaint (below).

Dear Mr Lord

Thank you for your email.

The concerns you have raised relate directly to Mr Julian Assange, the subject of the story. Given the nature of the story, it appears that it would be difficult for the Commission to investigate or understand this matter fully without his involvement. In addition, the outcome of a Commission investigation (whether correction, apology or adjudication, for example) would need his approval. In such circumstances, we would generally require a complaint from Mr Julian Assange or his representative, in order to take the matter forward.

I should make clear that Mr Assange is fully aware of our services. Should Mr Assange wish to complain about any coverage he will be able to do so.

It appears that we would have difficulty in pursuing this matter. However, if you believe that there are exceptional public interest reasons for the Commission to proceed with an independent complaint under the circumstances, we would be grateful to hear from you in the next ten days. 

Once we have heard from you, the Commission will be asked whether it wishes to take the complaint forward. If you would like to discuss your case before replying please do contact us.  If we hear no more from you we will close our file on the matter.

If, at the end of the process, you are dissatisfied with the manner in which your complaint has been handled, you should write within one month to the Independent Reviewer who will investigate the matter and report any findings and recommendations to the Commission. For further details please use the following link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/about/whoswho/independentreview.html

A copy of the Code of Practice which all newspapers and magazines who subscribe adhere to, can be accessed using this web link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.html

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need further advice.  When you write to us, please quote our reference number on this email.

Yours sincerely

Simon Yip
Complaints Coordinator

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

Tel: 020 7831 0022
Website: www.pcc.org.uk
I will compile a full response as soon as I can shake off this sense of bewildered anger and the urge to be overwhelmingly sarcastic...

ORIGINAL LETTER FOLLOWS:

UK Press Complaints Commission
complaints@pcc.org.uk
Tel: 02078310022

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to register my disgust with The Guardian newspaper's latest assault on the good character of Julian Assange:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun/21/julian-assange-escape-routes-ecuador-embassy?CMP=twt_gu

This is only the latest in a long stream of nasty, vindictive personal attacks on Mr Assange from Guardian "journalists". I refer you to Mr Assange's submission to the Leveson inquiry for more evidence.

I also cite my own experiences defending Assange from "Guardianistas", as documented at the following links:

http://jaraparilla.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/how-to-get-blocked-by-los-del-guardian.html

http://jaraparilla.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/guardians-vendetta-against-julian.html

As a time when the world is watching the UK media with close attention, and when Julian Assange is waging an historic battle for freedom of speech, such pithy yellow journalism should be urgently confronted if the UK Press Complaints Commission wishes to maintain credibility and continue it's important work.

Sincerely,

Gary Lord
aka @Jaraparilla on Twitter
Australia

It's Correa's End Game Now

Ecuador is sounding positive on Julian Assange. Great! But what happens when the US Grand Jury reveals new "evidence"? There will be huge pressure on Ecuador's President Rafael Correa.

It's good that Correa is taking time to review the FACTS. He should also demand that the US reveal whatever relevant evidence they have NOW.

If Correa grants asylum, he cannot whisk Assange off to Quito without a UK safe passage deal. But the US will surely block such a deal (perhaps by revealing Grand Jury "evidence" to a frothing press?) and then demand Correa reconsider.

The media circus over this new "evidence" may turn the UK public decisively against Assange. Safe passage could be delayed a very long time.

Alternatively, Correa could get the Grand Jury "evidence" now (perhaps in secret) and negotiate a deal (definitely in secret) that saves face for all.

Consider three possible outcomes, from a million possibilities..

#1 Outcome (ideal but unlikely): US indictment remains sealed, Obama says he's not interested in prosecuting journos, Assange flies to Ecuador. Correa becomes a hugely popular global hero (USA does not want this!). What would US want in return for this? What could or would Correa offer?

Outcome #2: Correa ridicules Grand Jury evidence in public (compares to Powell's WMDs?) and Assange wins UK popular support. The UK Cameron govt (or next Labor govt) prefers to get rid of Assange and upset the US rather than lose votes. Assange flies out.

Outcome #3: Correa decides Assange is not his problem, hands him back to UK. How much popular support would this cost Correa? Domestically, perhaps not much (Ecuador's under-educated poor are his base). But internationally a big loss of face.

Correa seems a proud, sincere and committed man, but also a calculating realist. It's his End Game now, not Julian's.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Swedish Extradition FACTS from Christine Assange

Julian Assange's mother Christine recently tweeted the following FACTS about extraditions involving the USA, UK, Sweden and Australia:

1. Australian PM Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbot backed new Extradition Act Amendments making it easier for U.S.A to extradite Aussies. The Greens fought it.

2. For the FIRST TIME Aussies can be now be extradited for minor offences.

3. The protection of "political" motives has been weakened. If the charge is "Terrorism" then "political" cannot apply to prevent extradition.

4. The U.S.A. recently expanded its definition of "terrorist" to include peaceful protesters - "Low level terrorism".

5. Under the new NDAA legislation, the U.S became a police state - citizens and foreigners can be arrested without warrant and indefinite detention applies.

6. In 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it legal to publish classified documents. Obama is now trying to label media who do so as terrorists.

7. Modifications to the Act included changing "protection from death penalty" to "likelihood the death penalty would be carried out".

8. Note that the U.S.A is in the top 5 countries for killing its own citizens, and the only Western country in that top 5.

9. Even Minor Offences under the new Extradition Amendments are punished with up to 12 months imprisonment.

10. The UK/US Bilateral Treaty allows the U.S.A to extradite from the UK without any prima facie case (i.e. evidence).

11. The Swedish/US Bilateral Treaty gets around safeguards of normal extradition with a fast-track "Temporary Surrender" clause.

12. The US Grand Jury convenes in secret. There are 4 prosecutors, no defence, and no judge. It can issue indictments for Extradition with no proper legal process.

13. Sweden has NEVER refused an Extradition request from the U.S.A.

14. In 2001 Sweden gave two innocent Egyptian refugees to the CIA for rendition to Egypt, where they were tortured.

15. The Swedish Justice Minister who signed off on the CIA rendition torture flight was Thomas Bodstrum.

16. Thomas Bodstrum is now the business partner of Claes Borgstrum, the politician/lawyer of the two Swedish women in the Assange case.

17. The Australian Greens supported a motion by Senator Scott Ludlam to protect Julian from "Temporary Surrender" to the U.S.A via Sweden. Both Labor and the Coalition opposed it.

Follow Christine Assange on Twitter:  ‏@AssangeC

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Letter To Ecuadorian Embassy Requesting Asylum for Julian Assange

I just sent the following letter to the Ecuadorian embassy in Canberra and urge all concerned supporters of WikiLeaks to do the same:

PLEASE GRANT ASYLUM TO JULIAN ASSANGE!

Estimados señores y señoras,

I am writing this email to you as a concerned Australian who is profoundly disappointed in my own government's dismal failure to protect award-winning journalist Julian Assange from US-lead political persecution. I sincerely beg the Ecuadorian government to grant Julian asylum, and help arrange his safe passage from London.

I am just one of many Australians who have campaigned long and hard to request that Prime Minister Julia Gillard speak up against the bogus sex allegations being pursued by Swedish authorities, guarantee Julian Assange safe passage home to Australia, and allow his media organisation WikiLeaks to continue their extremely valuable work. Unfortunately, our efforts have fallen on deaf ears! We can only conclude that our ruling parties' allegiance to the USA is stronger than their loyalty to the Australian people or any ideal of Democracy.

In this situation, Julian Assange has been forced to seek asylum and I believe you should be proud that he has chosen Ecuador, of all countries, as his best chance of avoiding persecution. The people of Ecuador know what it is like to suffer US persecution and I am sure they will warmly welcome this brave Australian journalist.

For more details on the FACTS relating to this case, please see the following link: http://www.justice4assange.com

I recommend you also read this list of FACTS compiled by Julian's courageous mother Christine Assange: http://wlcentral.org/node/2486

Once again I sincerely beg the Ecuadorian government to do everything it can to help this brave man.

Por favor, hagan lo que pueden Ustedes para ayudarle a
este héroe valiente Australiano!

Regards,

Gary Lord
Twitter: @Jaraparilla

Ecuadorian Embassy Canberra
6 Pindari Crescent O’Malley ACT, 2606
Phone: 61 2 62864021
Fax: 61 2 62861231
email: embassy@ecuador-au.org

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's Wrong With The Canberra Press Pack?

Today I saw a Canberra press-pack political journalist and dedicated Twitter user, Latika Bourke, trying to hold Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to account for double standards on political scrutiny. Excellent, I thought - a bit of real journalism, speaking truth to power!

I jumped in to mention the irony of Gillard's FOI opacity on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks...

As you can see from that little exchange, Latika (a) had no idea about Senator Ludlum's FOI requests, and (b) didn't bother reading the WikiLeaks Central link I sent her. 

So I gave her a little time (see footnote) and then checked to see if she had educated herself...

 * crickets *


Sorry, that should have been "you AND your press pack mates"!

A fellow WikiLeaks supporter chipped in, only briefly interrupting Ms Bourke's Twitter chats about sewing, knitting, and "girliness"...


As you can see, @Karwalski and I tried to reach out politely. And while it's nice to get a response from a busy (?) Canberra journo, the substance of our tweets was totally ignored.

Worse yet, @Karwalski then got BLOCKED by Ms Bourke for the following observant tweet:

It is interesting to consider this little exchange in the context of another Journos v. People debate that was happening simultaneously in Australia today. A Fairfax journo wrote a rather predictable article about the agonisingly slow death of corporate media. Then Crikey's brilliant Bernard Keane took him out back of the sheds and slapped him around a bit.

But it's distressing to think that Latika Bourke's indifference and ignorance regarding Julian Assange's legal battles might reflect broader attitudes among her Australian media colleagues. Not to mention the politicians who drip-feed them their daily talking points.

There appears to be a widespread, nasty, and very jealous attitude towards Assange within Oz media ranks, even though (or especially because?) he won a Walkley Award - plus much more - and has been feted globally for his breakthrough, world-changing journalism. Is this just petty jealousy from wannabe hacks? Or something far more sinister?

Yes, there are a few outstanding Aussie journos doing their best to stand up for Julian Assange, freedom of speech, and the right to publish. But given the importance of this case, why hasn't every Australian journalist at least familiarised themselves with the FACTS?

I am just a humble peasant with a wife, three kids, a cat, and a full-time job to go to in the morning, so I must go to sleep now and leave readers to cogitate that last point themselves. But I will also leave you with an illuminating selection of further tweets from @latikambourke following our conversation today...




FOOTNOTE: The times on the right hand side of these tweets are not indicative of the live conversation. I captured the images from my timeline later in the evening.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Australia Invades Sweden

By Special Correspondent Anders Panders

Dateline Stockholm, 1st November 2012

AUSTRALIAN troops today launched a massive land, sea and air invasion of the Swedish capital, supported by a full-scale cyber-attack which had Swedes (including armed forces) glued to their TVs, radio and the Internet while the action unfolded. Not a single person was harmed during the invasion.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Ludlum appeared on Swedish national television at 7 pm local time to declare that the primary goal of the mission  - the rescue of Australian political prisoner Julian Assange - had been achieved. Assange had been due to be extradited to the USA within three weeks, following the US presidential elections, but is now returning home to a hero's welcome.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Ludlum - who rose swiftly to power after Australians rejected both major parties in a September double dissolution election, followed by his own party leader's decision to "spend more time in her garden" - declared that the Swedish people had nothing to fear but the truth, and their government had only themselves to blame.



The Australian assault on the Swedish mainland began with an orchestrated, simultaneous takeover of all media and communications, including submarine Internet cables, at exactly midnight last night. Swedes awoke to news that their Foreign Minister Carl Bildt had been arrested for espionage after working as an undercover spy for the United States for over a decade.

As one shocked grandmother told Aftonbladet: "We have all known this for a long time, if the truth be told. But nobody wanted to talk about it. It was just too embarrassing."

This news quickly lead to the resignation of the Prime Minister, the head of the Armed Forces, and many other shocking TV revelations from a string of political and cultural celebrities, including Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Borg.There were even shocking revelations about who really killed Olof Palme.



But it was all a clever hoax. Even if many of the allegations may yet prove to be true - WikiLeaks claims to have a comprehensive dossier ready for release - the scenes shown on Swedish media were in fact highly sophisticated computer-generated images and audio productions, carefully crafted by a secret multimedia lab within Canberra's new Department of Youth, Imagination and Total Awesomeness, which Prime Minister Ludlum established as a priority after cutting funds from other departments including Defence and ASIO.

"This military defeat of Sweden is actually a triumph for non-military technology," declared Prime Minister Ludlum. "It provides further proof that the billions of dollars wasted worldwide every year on military hardware can be better channelled towards education. Many of the kids in my Department of Awesomeness were only 10 years old when we first recruited them to our secret Greens Party program. I'm just glad Clive Palmer didn't blow their cover."

Reaction on the streets of Stockholm has been muted. Swedish citizens appear to have shrugged off the day's events, although many younger Swedes have declared the unprecedented media blitz "helt fantastisk" (totally awesome). A small posse of radical feminists were seen marching towards the Högsta domstolen (Supreme Court) this evening, but meanwhile the bars are full of Australian troops and young Dept Awesomeness agents happily engaging with Swedish locals.




Warning: A Department of Foreign Affairs advisory warning remains in place for Australian nationals. Always wear a condom signed with your own initials in indelible ink, film all consensual sexual activity, and sign non-disclosure agreements before the first kiss. Happy travels!



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Meeting With My Local MP

"Let me tell you who got David Hicks released," said my local MP, Steve Ciobo, as he addressed a handful of protesters last night outside his electoral office, just a short walk from Surfers Paradise on Australia's sunny Gold Coast.

"It was John Howard."

We laughed at the very idea. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard happily left David Hicks to rot in Guantanamo Bay for over six years, and only negotiated an appalling deal for his release (Hicks had to plead guilty to bogus charges and promise not to contact the media with allegations of torture) because protesters just like us had campaigned vigorously for his release. But the former member of the Australian Liberal Party's Shadow Ministry appeared to be serious.

"I was there in the room!" insisted Mr Ciobo. This set the absurd tone for our discussion.



We were not there to talk about David Hicks. We were there, outside his office, holding a vigil in support of Bradley Manning, the young US soldier facing a Court Martial and possible death penalty for allegedly leaking secret US government files to WikiLeaks. We were there also in support of Julian Assange, the Australian founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, on whose behalf not a single member of the Australian parliamentary Coalition has spoken up. We asked Mr Ciobo to explain his party's silence on the matter.

Mr Ciobo said that in his own opinion, most Coalition MPs had a negative view of WikiLeaks, and probably thought Julian Assange was getting what he deserved. But in his own opinion, he confided, Julian was not all that bad.

We asked if Mr Ciobo knew the facts surrounding Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden, and he admitted that he didn't. He didn't think many others in his party knew much either, aside from Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop.

"Our view is that it's a government problem," he said.

It's difficult to have a meaningful debate with someone who doesn't know the facts, but it's totally unacceptable that a federally elected representative of the Australian public tolerates the witch-hunting of an innocent Australian citizen with so little basic curiosity. 

We urged him to learn the facts, and he promised that he would read the material I had sent him previously (and have emailed him again) including Christine Assange's Talking Points.

We asked if he knew who Bradley Manning was. Mr Ciobo said he hadn't known who Manning was until we turned up in front of his office that day with a big sign. But he HAD heard about our little demonstration.

"I saw it on Twitter," he explained.

That was odd. There were only five of us at the demonstration, aside from my wife and kids (who dropped by to say hello). And as far as I can see, @SteveCiobo doesn't seem to follow any of us on Twitter. Perhaps Steve got some assistance from our ASIO friends (Ciobo apparently wanted to be an ASIO agent when he entered university). 

Mr Ciobo mentioned that he was a trained lawyer. We asked how he felt about an Australian citizen being held under house arrest for over 500 days without charge. He shrugged it off.

"My opinion doesn't matter," he explained. What mattered, he said, was that the laws of other nations had to be respected and follow due course. We pointed out that this is not happening, and he again promised to inform himself.

We talked about the Collateral Murder video. Mr Ciobo explained that the USA had a more cavalier attitude to laws like the Geneva Convention than Australia, and their military's behaviour in places like Iraq and Afghanistan should not to be compared with our brave Diggers. Nevertheless, he insisted, we had to respect US interpretations of law. We pointed out that such respect is difficult when President Obama refuses to even declassify those interpretations.



Sadly, I was left with the strong impression that we cannot take Mr Ciobo at his word. A man who pretends that John Howard deserves thanks for rescuing David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay has already forfeited credibility. And this absurd level of debate characterizes the temper of the times in Australian politics.  Facts are routinely ignored while phoney debates rage endlessly across the front pages.

Mr Ciobo, a former employee of PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountants, is no idiot. He has been described as a "lieutenant" of former Liberal Party leader, lawyer, and Goldman Sachs employee Malcolm Turnbull (who often talks about how he defended the MI5 author of Spycatcher but seldom mentions that he also defended media magnate Kerry "The Goanna" Packer against allegations of criminal political conspiracy).  Let's hope Mr Ciobo is better informed next time we meet, and his party decides to speak up on behalf of WikiLeaks' hugely popular leader.

There are lessons in this small parable for supporters of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning.

  • Firstly, politicians are only human: we need to contact them, verify that they know the facts (if only to block claims of plausible deniability), and give them a documented opportunity to respond. 
  • Secondly, having exhausted the first lesson's possibilities, we should be under no illusions that any elected officials are going to speak up on Julian's, Bradley's, or WikiLeaks's behalf. If politicians and journalists will not speak up, then WE must become the voice that is lacking. We must become the media. 

Finally, a warning is warranted.

If our politicians are not prepared to respond sincerely to genuine concerns for innocent individuals facing torture and imprisonment, they should not continue to expect civil levels of respect from us. Laws should apply equally to all citizens. If governments are not going to respect the law, they cannot ask citizens to do so. Is that really a future we wish to embrace?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

ALP Planning US Nuclear Submarine Base For Brisbane

The letter below from the office of former Australian PM Kevin Rudd confirms that the Australian Labour Party are seriously planning to build a US Naval Base for nuclear-powered submarines in Brisbane, Australia's 3rd largest city.





NB: Name and address of recipient redacted as I received via 3rd party (a reliable source) and do not have contact with them.