In April of 2020, during the first covid lockdowns, I spoke out about my personal experience to a journalist for the first time . In sharing my name, face, and story as a survivor of human trafficking, I became a public survivor. That isn’t a decision made lightly, as it carries risks and can be emotionally and physically exhausting. But the reward is in being a voice for the voiceless and an example for others on their path of healing. Speaking to the world through the press requires trust. Trust in the journalists to be honest and keep their word on any agreements, trust in the publications to print the information and avoid censorship, and trust in the public and press alike to uphold the freedom of the press.
I had previously only told my story a few times to those close to me personally who had built trust, survivor advocates, workers at a safe house, and fellow survivors. Once I made the decision to go public, I figured out very quickly that I needed to set a cornerstone of core principles for myself. My core principles guide me when I feel lost and I need to get back home. They remind me of who I am and what I believe. They help me cut through the noise.
I believe in the truth. I believe in free speech. I believe that all humans should have the opportunity to be truly free. I believe that free press and whistleblower protections help secure that freedom. These are just a few of the core principles that help ground me in my service as a public survivor leader and survivor advocate. When these are threatened, I must speak out and now is that time.
Julian Assange is the editor and publisher of the website Wikileaks created in 2006. He published whistleblower documents as a journalist . Now Assange, on top of his other charges, has been indicted on 17 new charges in the US relating to the Espionage Act . Julian Assange is an Australian. Most cases up to this point brought under the Espionage Act have been against government employees who accessed sensitive information and leaked it to journalists and others.
The Associated Press reported that the indictment raised concerns about media freedom, as Assange’s solicitation and publication of classified information is a routine job journalists perform.
There are terrible consequences when journalists can’t publish information related to public safety and in the public interest. Sometimes I wonder, “What if Julian Assange had been free and leaked documents exposing Epstein many years ago?” Julian Assange might have been one of the only ones capable of handling a drop like that while protecting the anonymity of the source. We need a free press, whistleblower protection, and free speech in order to speak out in situations like that. My work as a survivor advocate for those affected by human trafficking does sometimes intersect with celebrities, the ruling class, and government offices and officials around the world and in the US.
I want to be able to look my fellow survivors in the eye and be able to tell them that I did everything that I could to fight for them. How can I do this if the systems that should be in place to protect them are broken? I can see that they are broken when I look at the case of Julian Assange. His experience is a terrifying example to me of what our government will do if you embarrass them or challenge their power.
The message they are sending is clear. If you embarrass the ruling class, you will not have whistleblower protection, you will not have the opportunity to have a free press and you will not get free speech. I made the decision to advocate for the freedom of Julian Assange as well, because ultimately if I don’t advocate for him now, survivors might pay the price later when they decide to step forward. I could not sit silently and watch fundamental human rights stripped from him. The importance of the freedom to write and publish information that may be inconvenient to the powerful has become even more clear to me recently as I started writing articles related to human trafficking and survivor issues.
This week, the intersection of all of these issues became very clear. An FBI whistleblower stepped forward. “New whistleblower information reveals that the FBI is moving agents off of child sexual abuse investigations to instead pursue political investigations.
The whistleblower recounted being told that “child sexual abuse investigations were no longer an FBI priority.” These types of issues are exactly what the American people deserve to know about. Fewer people will have the courage to speak out and publications will shy away from sharing their statements and evidence if they face harsh penalties under the law for doing so.
The imprisonment of Julian Assange and lack of support from most journalists and press institutions angers many from all walks of life. I reached out to a variety of people for comments about this case.
Comedian, podcaster, and the star of the new hit Netflix comedy special A Real Hero, Tim Dillon tells me he is disturbed by the lack of media coverage of Assange’s situation.
“The media's silence on the treatment of Assange is criminal,” said Dillon. “They’re not concerned with ‘free speech.' They gleefully celebrate the censorship of their political enemies. Assange is being tortured by the most powerful forces on earth and they remain largely silent.”
Attorney Robert Barnes has famously represented clients like the eight Covington High School Students. He’s also worked with Alex Jones and was part of the Kyle Rittenhouse defense team. He calls Assange’s indictment “shameful,” and points out that it sets dangerous precedent.
“The shameful indictment of Julian Assange effectively makes it a crime to publish whistleblower reports of Deep State secrets, and poses an imminent risk to investigative reporting that exposes Deep State crimes,” said Barnes.
Michael Malice, Author of The Anarchist Handbook, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. North, The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, and the soon-to-be-released The White Pill: A Tale of Good and Evil pointed out the twisted culture surrounding the concept of “free speech” amongst media professionals. “The fact that Taylor Lorenz is regarded as more of a free speech martyr than Julian Assange by many reporters reveals where their loyalties and priorities lie,” said Malice.
Geoff Young, the Democratic Party nominee for US Congress 6th District told me he is “appalled” by Assange’s persecution, calling him a “hero.”
“As the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, I am appalled by the persecution of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, by my government in Washington,” said Young. “Julian Assange and Wikileaks are heroes for exposing numerous crimes committed by the US government and many other individuals all over the world. Wikileaks is a publisher of information that was provided by other people. Nothing they have ever published has been shown to be factually false, and Wikileaks has been careful never to reveal the identity of any spies.”
“If Assange is imprisoned for life and dies in prison, investigative reporting itself will be threatened all over the world,” Young added. “If President Biden refuses to order Attorney General Merrick Garland to drop all legal actions against Julian Assange, Congress should impeach the President and remove him from power for attacking the First Amendment and the practice of journalism.”.
Author of Black Victim To Black Victor: Identifying the Ideologies, Behavioral Patterns, and Cultural Norms That Encourage a Victimhood Complex and journalist Adam B. Coleman that Assange’s persecution was one of the first Deep State actions that called his attention to government overreach.
“Julian Assange was one of the first examples made by the political establishment and deep state actors that truly grabbed my attention. Watching the media turn him into a pariah that deserves his imprisonment never mixed well with the accusations that were levied against him,” said Coleman.
“We often talk about evil actors in faraway places but I was watching our government flex their international might to not only degrade his namesake but also force him into years of solitude for doing exactly what we claim a free nation would promote: the centering of truth so the people can challenge the behavior of authority,” Coleman added.
Content creator, journalist, and activist Sara Higdon called Assange’s extradition “absurd,” given that he is not an American citizen.
“Prosecuting Assange for simply posting information that others gave him is to take away his rights to free speech and free press. To have a non-American extradited to face punishment for violating American laws is absurd,” said Higdon. “Imagine if Iran tried to have Pete Butigueg extradited to be tried for homosexuality?”
Spike Cohen, the 2020 Vice President nominee for the Libertarian Party believes that Assange is paying the price for being one of the few unbiased journalists left– because the establishment wants to "crush actual journalism."
“Julian Assange did in the US what American journalists do in other countries all of the time: he received information from a whistleblower, and he released it to the public. Unlike many other journalists, he didn’t editorialize it and try to color it with his opinion. He just released everything he got. It’s the purest and most trustworthy form of journalism there is, which explains why nothing that Wikileaks has released has been disproven. Compare that to the record of the corporate media,” said Cohen.
“And that’s why the US government, under both Republican and Democrat control, have fought to get their hands on him: they want to crush actual journalism and fully replace it with the corporatist propaganda that increasingly passes for journalism nowadays,” Cohen added. “Julian Assange has done nothing wrong, and everyone who values being able to know what their government is up to should stand with us to demand Julian’s release and freedom.”
Philip Labonte, the lead singer of the metalcore band All That Remains, called Assange’s persecution “unconscionable,” noting that he is being punished for having “embarrassed people in positions of power.”
“The persecution of Julian Assange by the establishment is unconscionable. The only reason he had to request asylum from the U.S. government is because the information released by Wikileaks has embarrassed people in positions of power. The fact that he is not capable of traveling freely is the most damming evidence available that the west has forsaken its most fundamental ideals,” said Labonte. “The right of people to speak freely and openly is fundamental to a liberal society and until Assange has been released western governments can not honestly say they remain true to the values and principles they claim to be founded on.”
Dave Decamp, News Editor at Antiwar.com told me “The plight of Julian Assange should be at the forefront of every journalist’s mind.”
“If he is extradited to the US and convicted for exposing US war crimes, it will set a precedent that anyone who publishes information the government doesn’t want to be revealed could be sent to prison,” said Decamp. “But instead, Assange has been vilified by Western media thanks to a massive propaganda campaign even as he is being tortured in London’s Belmarsh Prison, as UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has detailed extensively.“
Saturday, October 8, as part of a historic global day of action, I will be in Washington, DC at the Department of Justice from 12-3pm for a rally in support of journalist and publisher, Julian Assange. I am one of the speakers that day, along with Decamp.
I can not remain silent. I’d encourage you to attend, and if you are not in the United States please think about attending a similar event in your area that day. You can also support free speech and free press by informing others about the Julian Assange case through social media, local media, and word of mouth. This is an issue that impacts all of us and I thank those of you who choose to participate in securing your own freedoms.