WikiLeaks Tells Journalists 140 Things Not To Say About Julian Assange

The 5,000-word email included 140 statements that WikiLeaks said were false and defamatory, such as the assertion that Julian Assange had ever been an "agent or officer of any intelligence service".

LONDON: WikiLeaks on Sunday advised journalists not to report 140 different "false and defamatory" statements about its founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June 2012.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the advice to media organisations, but WikiLeaks singled out Britain's Guardian newspaper for publishing what it said was a false report about Assange. The Guardian did not immediately respond late on Sunday to a Reuters request for comment.

The Australian set up WikiLeaks as a channel for publishing confidential information from anonymous sources. He is a hero to some for exposing what supporters cast as government abuse of power and for championing free speech, but to others he is a rebel who has undermined the security of the United States.

WikiLeaks angered Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables that laid bare often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family.

"There is a pervasive climate of inaccurate claims about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, including purposeful fabrications planted in large and otherwise 'reputable' media outlets," Wikileaks said an email sent to media organisations and marked "Confidential legal communication. Not for publication."

"Consequently journalists and publishers have a clear responsibility to carefully fact-check from primary sources and to consult the following list to ensure they are not spreading, and have not spread, defamatory falsehoods about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange."

WikiLeaks did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The 5,000-word email included 140 statements that WikiLeaks said were false and defamatory, such as the assertion that Assange had ever been an "agent or officer of any intelligence service".

WikiLeaks also said it was false and defamatory to suggest that Assange, 47, had ever been employed by the Russian government or that he is, or has ever been, close to the Russian state, the Kremlin or Putin.

Other items listed as false and defamatory included more personal claims including that Assange bleaches his hair, that he is a hacker, that he has ever neglected an animal or that he has poor personal hygiene.

Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.

Later that year, the group released over 90,000 secret documents detailing the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, followed by almost 400,000 internal U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq.

More than 250,000 classified cables from U.S. embassies followed, then almost 3 million dating back to 1973.

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‘Spying & threats’: Assange complains of ‘more subtle’ silencing than Khashoggi

Julian Assange has accused his Ecuadorean hosts of spying and feeding information to US authorities, and slammed attempts to block his journalistic work as a more subtle way of silencing than the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Suggesting there were “facts of espionage” inside the embassy, the WikiLeaks co-founder expressed concern during a hearing in Quito on Wednesday that Ecuadorean intelligence is not only spying on him, but sharing the data it has harvested with the FBI. Ecuadorean intelligence clearly spent a sizable amount of money equipping the embassy for surveillance, Assange added.

He accused Ecuadorean authorities of “comments of a threatening nature” relating to his journalistic work and compared attempts to silence him to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was tortured and cut up in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October, but “more subtle.”  The comparison elicited a harsh reaction from Ecuadorean Prosecutor General Inigo Salvador, who accused Assange of biting the hand that feeds him.

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‘Biggest attack on freedom of speech in decades’ – WikiLeaks hits back against DNC lawsuit 

Assange told the Ecuadorean court that the living conditions in the embassy were so detrimental to his health that they may put him in the hospital – and suggested that may be the point, because once he leaves the building, he’s fair game for UK and US authorities.

US prosecutors accidentally revealed the existence of a sealed indictment against the whistleblower last month and have since stonewalled reporters’ inquiries into what the indictment might contain.

Ecuador: Assange appeal over new embassy rules heard in court

While Assange was being held incommunicado earlier this year, his suspicions about his hosts’ spying were confirmed in a May report by the Guardian that revealed Ecuador spent about $5 million on surveilling the WikiLeaks founder and his visitors in the London embassy from 2012 until 2017. However, that paper’s recent publication of blatantly “fake news” involving Assange casts its earlier coverage into doubt as well.

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Assange rejects Ecuador president's 'no death penalty' deal with UK 

Assange was in court appealing a strict set of rules handed down in October governing his conduct, which he has called a violation of human rights. He submitted 15 “facts of evidence” along with letters from individuals and groups barred from visiting him at the embassy. An earlier attempt to sue his hosts over the restrictive measures was ultimately dismissed by a judge last month, while Assange rejected Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno's offer to leave the embassy in exchange for a guarantee he would not be executed.

 

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US Attorney Accidentally Leaks Indictment Against Assange

According to Wikileaks, the information became known after a 'copy-and-paste' error mentioned Assange in a document pertaining to another unrelated case.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed charges in preparation to pursue a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The information was leaked as a result of mishandling of documents by Assistant U.S. Attorney, Kellen Dwyer.

RELATED: Assange Trial Suspended Until Australian Translator Appointed

"The Justice Department is preparing to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and is increasingly optimistic it will be able to get him into a U.S. courtroom," The Wall Street Journal reported, on Thursday.

According to Wikileaks, the information became known after a 'copy-and-paste' error in which Dwyer mentioned Assange in a document pertaining to another unrelated case, which was originally filed in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, in August.

However, the precise charges against Assange are not yet known and could refer to the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917, which criminalizes the publication of U.S. defense-related information. U.S. officials have yet to comment on the leak of the sealed indictment.

Julian Assange's public notoriety increased in 2007 when Wikileaks published information that contradicted the United States' account of international affair procedures.

Three years later, when WikiLeaks unleashed about 391,000 documents revealing that the U.S. Government allowed torture practices during the Iraq war, Assange was indicted by Swedish prosecutors for alleged sexual harassment.

In 2011, the High Court of London authorized the extradition of Assange to Sweden. However, in June 2012, Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has remained since then.

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Ecuador Rejects Reports on Assange but It Admits New Protocol

Ecuador on Wednesday rejected reports about pressure from UN officials on the government, regarding the situation of Julian Assange, but it accepted to implement a new Special Protocol to maintain his asylum status.

'The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador rejects with indignation such stories and underlines that the president of the Republic did not even discuss the issue of Mr. Assange's asylum with the United Nations high commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, or with the United Nations special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, David Kaye,' an official statement said.

According to the press release, the fake reports aim to maintain that UN officials pressured Ecuador to make the decision to issue a Special Protocol with regulations on the minimum conditions of the asylum seeker's stay at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

In the document, the Ministry explained that the UN and UNHCR representatives in Ecuador, who participated in the meetings, corroborated in statements to the media that the issue was not dealt with in any of the gatherings.

It also added that according to the specifications of Filippo Grandi, the founder of WikiLeaks, the portal published thousands of classified documents from several countries, mainly the United States, is not a refugee, but an asylum seeker in a diplomatic mission and therefore, the issue is outside the jurisdiction of its organization.

After insisting that the information published by digital media 'shamelessly' tried to note the pressure exerted on the national government, the Foreign Ministry concluded: 'Nothing further from the truth: Ecuador is a sovereign State, which takes its foreign policy decisions with autonomy and looking only at the defense of its national interests, with strict adherence to international law.'

The official statement was issued in response to news published by several sites that mentioned a 10-page Special Protocol, with indications on the payment of food, laundry and medical care (which will also be strictly regulated), visiting regime and the use of communications, which Assange must comply with, in order to maintain his condition as asylum seeker.

Ecuador Rejects Reports on Assange but It Admits New Protocol

Ecuador on Wednesday rejected reports about pressure from UN officials on the government, regarding the situation of Julian Assange, but it accepted to implement a new Special Protocol to maintain his asylum status.

'The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador rejects with indignation such stories and underlines that the president of the Republic did not even discuss the issue of Mr. Assange's asylum with the United Nations high commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, or with the United Nations special rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, David Kaye,' an official statement said.

According to the press release, the fake reports aim to maintain that UN officials pressured Ecuador to make the decision to issue a Special Protocol with regulations on the minimum conditions of the asylum seeker's stay at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

In the document, the Ministry explained that the UN and UNHCR representatives in Ecuador, who participated in the meetings, corroborated in statements to the media that the issue was not dealt with in any of the gatherings.

It also added that according to the specifications of Filippo Grandi, the founder of WikiLeaks, the portal published thousands of classified documents from several countries, mainly the United States, is not a refugee, but an asylum seeker in a diplomatic mission and therefore, the issue is outside the jurisdiction of its organization.

After insisting that the information published by digital media 'shamelessly' tried to note the pressure exerted on the national government, the Foreign Ministry concluded: 'Nothing further from the truth: Ecuador is a sovereign State, which takes its foreign policy decisions with autonomy and looking only at the defense of its national interests, with strict adherence to international law.'

The official statement was issued in response to news published by several sites that mentioned a 10-page Special Protocol, with indications on the payment of food, laundry and medical care (which will also be strictly regulated), visiting regime and the use of communications, which Assange must comply with, in order to maintain his condition as asylum seeker.

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Ecuador To Partly Restore Internet Access For Julian Assange

London: The Ecuadorian government will partially restore communications for Julian Assange at the country's embassy in London, Wikileaks said.

The Wikileaks founder, who has been holed up at the embassy since 2012, was stopped from using the internet or a mobile phone to communicate with the outside world in March.

"Ecuador has told WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that it will remove the isolation regime imposed on him following meetings between two senior UN officials and Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno on Friday," Wikileaks said in a statement on Sunday.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks editor in chief, described the move as "positive" but said it is "of grave concern that his freedom to express his opinions is still limited".

The decision to cut off Assange's communications was taken because the Australian had broken a 2017 promise to not interfere in other countries' affairs while in the mission, the Ecuadorian government said at the time. 

It came days after he used Twitter to challenge Britain's accusation that Russia was responsible for the nerve agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent in the English city of Salisbury. 

He also attacked the arrest in Germany of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont under an EU warrant issued by Spain over Puigdemont's failed bid last year to declare independence for his Spanish region. 

Ecuador installed a jammer to prevent him from accessing email and restricted the number of visitors he can receive.

Assange took refuge in the diplomatic mission in 2012 after a British judge ruled he should be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault there.

Assange claims the accusations were politically motivated and could lead to him being extradited to the United States to face imprisonment over WikiLeaks' publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.

Sweden dropped its investigation last year, but British authorities say they still want to arrest him for breaching his bail conditions.

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Ecuador gets UN praise for ‘freedom of expression’ as Assange remains gagged in embassy limbo

A UN official praised Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno for his treatment of journalists despite the fact that the leader is said to be preparing to hand over WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to the governments persecuting him.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye commended Ecuador and Moreno for supposedly promoting freedom of speech – the same Moreno that recently cut off communications to fugitive whistleblower Julian Assange and has been mulling handing him over to the UK and the US to be tried as a spy.

Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, was granted political asylum by Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa in 2012 and became an Ecuadorian citizen in December 2017. In order to hand Assange over, Moreno would have to strip him of that citizenship first, as Ecuador’s extradition treaty with the UK precludes turning over its own citizens.

 
Moreno’s government invited Kaye to meet Ecuadorian authorities, journalists, academics, and civil society groups during a recent visit. The UN official was briefed on “ongoing legal and policy changes” instituted by Moreno, who has taken a hard right turn from the government of his predecessor Correa, most notably in resuming military cooperation with the US.

Kaye’s fulsome praise for the Moreno government rang especially hollow where he discussed whistleblowing and the internet: “He also urged strong promotion for independent journalism and the safety of journalists […] including by developing strong whistleblower protections for both public officials and private employees; and several steps to improve the rights people in Ecuador enjoy online.”

Assange is famous for developing WikiLeaks as a secure, anonymous platform for whistleblowers. His supporters were outraged when Moreno revoked his internet access earlier this year, leaving him completely cut off from the outside world. Moreno has maintained that he will respect Assange’s asylum as long as the journalist doesn’t engage in “political activity,” but he remains incommunicado despite this promise.

By inviting Kaye to visit Ecuador, Moreno may hope to preempt some of the international outrage that would result from sending an Ecuadorian citizen off to possibly spend decades in prison for doing journalistic work. Assange, after all, merely published information that he was given by whistleblowers, as journalists have for hundreds of years. Such acts are protected by US and UK law. But since some of that information concerned the shady conduct of American diplomats, military, and spies, Washington treats Assange as an enemy of the state. And once the UK has custody of Assange, it is assumed he will be transferred to the US.

Assange's last video before communications cut at Ecuadorian Embassy in London (FULL)

Assange is not the only Ecuadorian who Moreno has betrayed. Correa himself, who gave Moreno his blessing as his successor, was forced to flee to Belgium earlier this year after what he claims was a politically motivated prosecution for the alleged 2012 kidnapping of a political opponent. Correa turned on his protege after Moreno proposed a constitutional referendum that would have barred Correa from running for office again, and Moreno – whom he now calls a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – has since overturned many of his predecessor’s reforms.

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Assange's Defense Attorney Denounces Risks to Client's Health

Assange's lawyer stressed the Wiki founder's wavering health which the Ecuadorean embassy is failing to properly moderate.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange’s health is at risk after being held without medical attention in the Ecuadorean Embassy in the UK since 2012, defense attorney Jennifer Robinson said Saturday.

RELATED: Julian Assange Forced To Name Replacement at WikiLeaks

"We are very concerned about his health: he has been locked up in the embassy for more than six years, without proper access to medical care," said Robinson during an interview with the Catalan publication, Nacio Digital.

The lawyer stressed her client’s wavering health, which, she said, the embassy is unable to properly moderate due to lack of proper medical equipment and facilities.

"The Embassy is not equipped for prolonged detention to provide a reasonable environment...the prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention deeply affects the psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration," the Australian lawyer said.

Robinson also showed concern over the “very serious” threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States for trial, “If Assange faces a trial in the US, he can not benefit from the first amendment of the Constitution, which refers to freedom of the press.

“We can not forget that he is only an editor who published material of public interest,” Robinson said.

The defense lawyer also explained the recent change in Ecuador’s administration has only served to complicate the case, which she described as a 180-degree change in political position between President Rafael Correa to his predecessor, the incumbent President Lenin Moreno, particularly in regards to bilateral relations with the United States.

On March 28, just days after hosting a delegation of the United States Southern Command (Southcom), Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno decided to cut his guest’s communications with the outside world, denying him access to the internet and banning visitors who are not part of his legal team.

Julian Assange was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK in 2012. Assange faced extradition to Sweden, from England, over allegations he sexually assaulted two women, which he categorically denied.

Although the judicial process for the alleged sexual crimes in Sweden was lifted, he fears that if he is given to British authorities he could face prison for skipping bail and face extradition to the United States, where he would be tried for espionage and could be sentenced to death for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Julian Assange Forced To Name Replacement at WikiLeaks

Icelander Kristinn Hrafnsson has been named as Assange's replacement. He is an investigative journalist who was selected as Icelandic journalist of the year in 2010.

In a statement published on Wednesday, WikiLeaks announced that Julian Assange is no longer the Editor-in-Chief "after six months of effective incommunicado detention," but he is still a publisher for the investigative website.

RELATED: Ecuador's Ex-Foreign Minister: Assange Isolation 'Unjustified'

Icelander Kristinn Hrafnsson has been named as Assange's replacement.  He is an "investigative journalist selected in 2010 as Icelandic journalist of the year (his third award) for his role in the Collateral Murder publishing collaboration with Wikileaks," the statement said.

The WikiLeaks statement also highlights the challenging circumstances under which its founder, Assange, has been held "arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorean embassy," in which he has no access to communications with anybody "except for visits by his lawyers."

On March 28, just days after hosting a delegation of the United States Southern Command (Southcom), Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno decided to cut his guest’s communications with the outside world, denying him access to the internet and banning visitors who are not part of his legal team.

Julian Assange was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in the UK in 2012. Assange faced extradition to Sweden, from England, over allegations he sexually assaulted two women, which he categorically denied. Although the judicial process for the alleged sexual crimes in Sweden was lifted, he fears that if he is given to British authorities he could face prison for skipping bail and face extradition to the United States, where he would be tried for espionage and could be sentenced to death for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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