The Twilight of Freedom

Active enforcement against non-approved speech is underway in the U.K., as shown by the detentions of journalists at immigration checkpoints and, most strongly of all, by Julian Assange’s continued and appalling incarceration

Three British journalists I know personally — Johanna Ross, Vanessa Beeley and Kit Klarenberg – have each in the last two years been detained at immigration for hours on re-entering their own country, and questioned by police under anti-terrorist legislation.

This is plainly an abuse of the power to detain at port of entry, because in each case they could have been questioned at any time in the U.K. were there legitimate cause, and the questioning was not focused on their travels.

They were in fact detained and interrogated simply for holding and publishing dissident opinion on foreign policy, and in particular for supporting a more collaborative approach to Russia – with which, lest we forget, the U.K. is not at war.

These detentions have taken place over the period of a couple of years. All were targeted for journalism and this is plainly a continuing policy of harassment of dissident British journalists.

I have three times in that same period been questioned by police in my own home in Edinburgh for journalism, over three separate matters. I spent four months in jail for publicising essential information to show that a high level conspiracy was behind the false accusations against Scottish Independence leader Alex Salmond.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond preparing to give evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Feb. 26, 2021. Photo: Scottish Parliament / Wikimedia Commons.

Julian Assange remains in maximum security jail for publicising the truth about war crimes. Meanwhile a new National Security Bill goes through the Westminster parliament, which will make it illegal for a journalist to possess or publish classified information.

This has never been illegal. The responsibility has always lain with the whistleblower or leaker, not the journalist or publisher. It seeks to enshrine in U.K. law precisely what the U.S. government is seeking to achieve against Assange using the U.S. 1917 Espionage Act. This is a huge threat to journalism.

It is also worth pointing out that, if The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich was indeed doing nothing more than he has claimed to have been doing in Russia, that action would land him a long jail sentence in either the U.S. or the U.K. under the provisions which both governments are attempting to enforce.

On top of that, you have the Online Safety Bill, which under the excuse of protecting against paedophilia, will require social media gatekeepers to remove any kind of content the government deems as illegal.

When you put all this together with the new Public Order Act, which effectively gives the police authority to ban any protest they wish to ban, there is a fundamental change happening.

Free Assange demonstration in London, Oct. 8, 2022. Photo: Alisdare Hickson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

This is not just a theoretical restriction on liberty. Active enforcement against non-approved speech is already underway, as shown by those detentions and, most strongly of all, by Julian’s continued and appalling incarceration.

To complete the horror, there is no longer a genuine opposition within the political class. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party opposes none of this wave of attacks on civil liberties. The Scottish National Party has been sending out identical stock replies from its MPs on Julian Assange, 100 percent backing the U.K. government line on his extradition and imprisonment.

I feel this very personally. I know all of these people affected — Julian, Alex, Kit, Vanessa, Johanna — and view them as colleagues whose rights I defend, even though I do not always agree with all of their disparate views. 

Two other people I know personally and admire are under attack. The campaign of lies and innuendo against Roger Waters this last few weeks has been astonishing in both its viciousness and its mendacity, recalling the dreadful attacks on former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

To be a dissident in the U.K., or indeed the “West”, today is to see, every single day, your friends persecuted and to see the walls close in upon yourself.

A unified political class, controlled by billionaires, is hurtling us towards fascism. That now seems to me undeniable.

 Photo: London’s Heathrow Airport, 2010 © dannyman, / CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons.

Source: Consortium News.

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