Many will have heard about Julian Assange, the intrepid founder of the whistleblower website, http://wikileaks.org
, responsible for the recent release of nearly 77,000 leaked US military documents about the war in Afghanistan
. It’s no surprise that the US government wants to stop Assange and shut down WilikLeaks: U.S. Federal prosecutors believe the disclosure of the highly classified military documents is “illegal” and they are currently exploring possible criminal charges
. Good luck to the Pentagon lawyers in crafting a way to extend the long arm of the law to Assange or WikiLeaks, who are neither resident nor conduct business in the United States of America and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.
Mr. Assange has also been a trending topic on major media outlets and social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for a less noble reason (unless, of course, you consider WikiLeaks to be a threat to the “War on Terror”). The “breaking news “making the rounds concerns a story reported by a Swedish “tabloid”, Expressen, that Swedish police had issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Assange arising from complaints by two unidentified Swedish women alleging they were raped and molested by Mr. Assange.
In this brave new digital age of viral global communication and social media reporting, as soon as the story broke, there were those quick to jump on the bandwagon, adopting the adage “bad news travels fast.” Fortunately for Mr. Assange, as reported today by the National Post
(via Reuters, with files from Agence France-Presse):
“Swedish prosecutors said on Saturday that the founder of controversial whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was not suspected of rape in Sweden and was no longer wanted for questioning.
“Chief prosecutor Eva Finne has come to the decision that Julian Assange is not suspected of rape,” said a statement on the prosecution service’s website.
Mr. Assange was “no longer wanted,” the statement said, adding that Finne would make no other comments on Saturday.”
While WikiLeaks is at the forefront of exposing government cover-ups, duplicity and corruption, it seems its founder, Mr. Assange, is biding his time and ruminating on how to respond to this recent turn of events. At the time of this posting, he has yet to respond on Twitter or on the wikileaks.org blog. The last blog entry reads:
“On Saturday 21st of August, we have been made aware of rape allegations made against Julian Assange, founder of this project and one of our spokespeople.
We are deeply concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. We the people behind WikiLeaks think highly of Julian and and he has our full support.
While Julian is focusing on his defenses and clearing his name, WikiLeaks will be continuing its regular operations.”
No harm, no foul? What would have happened if the Swedish prosecutor did not exercise her prosecutorial discretion and withdraw the charges? Would people be quick to assume the best, or the worst, of Mr. Assange? If anything, this disinformation campaign and fake news story proves that just because someone is charged with a crime and the media reports it, doesn’t mean it’s true. The “presumption of innocence” is neither a mere formality, nor a pejorative for the “tough on crime” pundits. Let’s hope this emboldens Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to continue to follow their mission statement: “We open governments.”