Still top of the Propaganda Pops after thirty weeks in the Media’s hit parade is Russian lawyer, activist and political leader Alexey Navalny, who, allegedly the victim of a poisoning attempt by President Putin, is now penned up in a Russian prison.
By my rough count, my local paper, which I site only because it claims to be the country’s best, has published more than twenty stories on the Navalny poisoning, since the first it ran in August 2020, and not counting those published earlier.
Following those earlier pro-Navalny epistles, this new revelation of “Russian ruthlessness,” was well-timed to play on the public’s memory of the earlier attempt to poison the two Skripals, and so easier for media to pile the bile this time around.
Reporting that Navalny was poisoned in a hit “engineered by the Kremlin,” later reinforced in other stories, my local paper has steadfastly painted Navalny as a hero of resistance to Putin, and as an oppressed champion of Russian democracy and free speech.
It reported the poisoning happened on 20 August 2020, when Navalny took ill on a Russian domestic flight, which had to then make an emergency landing so he could be given urgent treatment, after which he was flown, still in a coma, to Berlin for more attention. It was then reported that laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, each found Navalny had been exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Not the first time poisoned
Further reporting revealed this wasn’t the first time an attempt had been made to poison Navalny, two others having occurred when he was in prison, where, he said, each incident was dismissed as an allergic reaction.
Skating over his convictions for embezzlement and fraud, which Navalny said were politically motivated and demonstrated how corrupt Russia’s judicial system is, the media has consistently presented Navalny as the victim of sinister Soviet-style skulduggery. And here the media’s objective seems remarkably similar to that of its time plying cold war propaganda about Russia when it led the Soviet Union.
In a raft of stories that flowed from the moment of the poisoning, my paper has reported on tens of thousands rallying across Russia, “engulfing cities in 11 time zones,” in support of Navalny and his “anti-Putin, anti-corruption crusade.”
There’s been no mention anywhere of Navalny’s association with far right neo-Nazi groups, or of his appearances in racist videos comparing Muslims, Georgians, and the people of the Caucasus, to cockroaches, and calling for their brutal repression.
No Objective Analysis and No Questions asked,
And not one story has questioned how Russia, a major world power, a leader in space exploration and technical and scientific innovation, could, nevertheless, be so incompetent as to bungle not one but three “poisonings,” five if you count the Skripals. Nor has the media considered how Russia could be so dumb as to do such a thing when the Skripal affair was still fresh in people’s minds. And neither has it asked, if Putin did indeed order Navalny be poisoned, why he was given emergency attention in a Russian hospital and later allowed to be medically evacuated, for life-saving treatment, in Germany. And not forgetting, since Navalny was in a coma at the time, it was probably his Russian doctors who made the decision to fly him to Germany.
Addressing the allegation that a “Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent” was responsible: Well, predictably, those findings didn’t tally with the one which the Russian hospital lab produced, which would hardly have let him go if it had. Not to mention that the labs, which found Novichok, lie (no pun intended) within the NATO anti-Russia sphere of US influence. And having four labs test for poison looks like a crude ruse to have their findings be seen to outweigh one Russian lab’s analysis.
Unless of course the Russian doctors were partners with Putin in the poisoning of Navalny, in which case he wouldn’t have been allowed to fly to Germany, would he?
Fraud Charges and Irresponsible Reporting.
Still, nowhere has our media reported that Russian courts have twice found Navalny guilty of defrauding the Russian subsidiary of French cosmetic company Yves Rocher, which Navalny ran with his brother, who was also sent to jail. And since his return from Germany, that’s where Navalny has been too, until his recent transfer to “one of Russia’s harshest.”
Acknowledging that these stories, published under the banner of “World News,” come from foreign news sources, our news media are, nonetheless, still responsible for their veracity. And given that its presentation of Navalny, as “a hero opposing a corrupt system and its despotic leader,” could sway public opinion as to Russia’s trustworthiness in the global scheme of things, we deserve to be told the full story.
And, frankly, you can safely extrapolate that idea across most stories our news media prints under the heading of “World News” these days
None of which is the real purpose of this essay, because, while Navalny sits in an awful Russian prison, a man far more worthy of our concern, and about whom our media seems oblivious, sits in solitary confinement in one of Britain’s most bleak.
The Most Important Trial in the History of a Free Press.
And what’s worse, he’s not some dodgy foreign politician, but rather one of the media’s own – a celebrated, if controversial, investigative reporter.
Too busy championing Navalny’s “fight for Democracy, Justice and Free Speech,” our news media has ignored Julian Assange, whose fight for those very same principles has seen him become the man in the iron masquerade of British justice.
For the record, if the media can present Navalny as the hero of a battle fought in the interests of Democracy and Freedom, and were his battle ever to be compared with that which Assange has fought for the self-same principles, it would be like comparing Gate pa with Gallipoli.
In 2020, in a trial described by many as the most important in the history of our free press, the Wikileaks founder spent weeks in London’s Old Bailey, facing 17 charges of espionage and one of computer misuse, which, combined, carry a sentence of 175 years in prison. And our media didn’t report on it!
Just as the daily screening into American homes of the Vietnam war’s bloody horrors helped hasten its end, so too have Wikileaks’ revelations drawn back the curtain on the hitherto secret and shady shenanigans that underpin US attempts to seize and secure world economic and military dominance.
Revelations – Chapter 2010, Wikileaks to the Blinkered.
The charges brought against Julian Assange stem from an April 2020 Wikileak of footage showing US Apache helicopters attacking an unarmed group in a Baghdad suburb. Killing twelve, including two Reuters news agency staff, and wounding two children, who were among those who came to aid those first shot, it was shocking.
That was followed by a Wikileaks release, in July 2010, of more than 91,000, secret US military documents and reports that were damning of US operations in the war in Afghanistan. And after them, in October 2020, came a Wikileak of 400,000 classified military files chronicling the war in Iraq, which was followed by the release of thousands of US diplomatic cables, including candid views of foreign leaders and blunt assessments of security threats.
Learning from its Vietnam war experience, the US military, then, insisted that in future conflicts the media would be required, “for its own protection,” to be “embedded” among the soldiers. That enabled the military to vet media coverage and so restrict critical reporting of its operations. But with the advent of computing and the Internet a whole new window of electronic opportunity opened for whistle-blowers, and keeping sensitive military and diplomatic information secret, again became problematic.
And so, with the Wikileaks revelations having undermined its credibility, and new ways emerging for sensitive material to find its way to media willing to publish it, the US government, in collusion with others, brought criminal proceedings against Julian Assange, which, to discourage others from following his example, each carried huge prison sentences
With Media off the Hook, Assange Carries the Can,
Ignoring the implications of its duplicitous dealings being made known, the US claimed to be more concerned that the revelations had endangered the lives of its agents and informants, but then failed to lay charges against media that published the material, which is strange, for without the media’s involvement, no “agents lives would have been endangered.”
Published for days on end, the Wikileak revelations appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde and Der Spiegel, and were also extensively broadcast over radio and TV
Nevertheless, it was Julian Assange alone, at risk of extradition to the United States and multiple life sentences, who was left to face “the greatest threat ever posed to a free press.” And the media, with clearly at least as much to lose, simply ignored it. It was too busy waving a big banner for a twice convicted, right wing, racist Russian politician, with a US university degree and neo-Nazi connections. Strange that!
With its February start interrupted by Covid, the Assange extradition hearing, which some likened to a “show trial” that employed legal chicanery never seen before in a British court, began its deliberations on 7 September 2020 and ended, decision pending, on 2 October 2020.
With no coverage of the hearing proper, and that which was published being little more than a turgid summary of facts, and despite requests for it to responsibly report a story that has such important implications for democracy (which the media was at such pains to assert was at stake in its reporting of the Navalny saga) our media has totally ignored the trial of Assange.
Assange’s lawyers argued that the case against him was politically motivated and an attempt by the US administration to intimidate whistle-blowers and journalists. And, citing protections set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, they said Assange acted lawfully when he published the material. But time after time their attempts to competently present their argument was either cut short or dismissed.
Concerning the Judge’s Concerns.
Finally, on 4 January 2020, after a tortuous, semi-secretive hearing, Judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered her findings, declaring, “because of his frail mental health and the real risk he might take his own life,” it would be “oppressive” to extradite Assange to the US, which to his surprised and weary supporters seemed like a victory.
But then, two days later, citing the US right to appeal her decision, Judge Baraitser said Assange was a flight risk and so, denying him bail, and seeming to ignore her own concerns for his “frail mental health and the real risk he might take his own life,” she returned Assange to his cell in Belmarsh prison.
With judge Baraitser’s suitability to preside over the case having long been questioned, not least because of both her husband and son’s connections to the British military and the UK security industry, respectively, many suggested that her 48 hour after-thought was the result of outside influence.
Describing his treatment as worse than that given a murderer, veteran newsman and film maker John Pliger says Assange has been isolated, medicated and denied the tools he needed to fight the charges he faced, and that he holds fears for his safety. And Pilger went on to say WikiLeaks’ revelations were “100 per cent authentic and represented an unprecedented service to the public and the role of investigative journalism at its finest.”
But, unlike the raft of stories it has run in support of the creepy Navalny, I can find no record of my local paper reporting anything on the Assange extradition hearings which, until resolved, still remains, “the greatest threat ever posed to a free press!”
7 March 2021
PPS – New York Times 9 Feb 2021 – The Biden administration has signalled that for now it is continuing its predecessor’s attempt to prosecute Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, as the Justice Department filed a brief this week appealing to a British court to overturn a ruling that blocked his extradition to the United States. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/12/us/politics/julian-assange-extradition.html