As the United States grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s living legacy of systemic inequalities, and partisan threats to the foundations of democracy, the integrity of news—the focus of Project’s Censored’s work and this book—has never been more important.
State of the Free Press 2023 is a joint production of The Censored Press and Seven Stories Press.
Presenting the year’s most significant independent journalism — including reports on wage theft, fossil fuel subsidies, and dark money – State of the Free Press 2023 highlights issues and voices marginalized by the corporate press. State of the Free Press 2023 casts a wary eye on the billionaire tycoons who own more and more of the nation’s most prominent news outlets, the digital tech titans who increasingly control the flow of information and the terms of public debate, and government agencies that aspire to “govern disinformation” in the name of national security. The volume’s diverse contributors advocate for press freedom and critical media literacy as means to hold power accountable and to promote a more just and inclusive society. Balancing critical analysis with optimistic vision, State of the Free Press 2023 shows how to distinguish trustworthy journalism from slanted news and clickbait infotainment.
“At a time when journalism is under fire, State of the Free Press 2023 reminds us of its power and inspires us to take action to preserve our free press.”
—John Biewen, host and producer of Scene on Radio
To celebrate the release of Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange by Kevin Gosztola, we are proud to share journalist Abby Martin's foreword to the book, in which Martin refreshes readers on both the political context and the overarching stakes of the U.S. government’s prosecution of Julian Assange, as well as offering a personal account of Wikileaks’ impact on the formation of her political ideology.
Foreword to Guilty of Journalism
By Abby Martin
When I first became aware of Julian Assange, it was a time of great hope. It was also a time of great horror.
The 9/11 attacks created a climate of dutiful stenographers and imperial apologia that allowed the Bush administration to wage war on the planet under the auspices of a never-ending “War on Terrorism.” But war isterrorism, and the United States was committing unspeakable amounts of it under the cover of darkness.
As a freshman in college, I remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, surrounded by cheering students when the US bombed Baghdad like a video game. I remember the debilitating confusion when so-called opposition leader Nancy Pelosi said impeachment was off the table for the criminals that lied a nation into war, tortured with impunity, and shamelessly profited from their heinous acts. I felt utterly defeated, awash in a sea of propaganda and unquestioning patriotism.
The nation was on the brink at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, and President Barack Obama came in to placate the anti-war agitation. Yet the wars raged on, and the war criminals walked free. They wanted Obama to rehabilitate the empire, but WikiLeaks helped cement its true legacy.
The Iraq War Logs, heroically divulged by Chelsea Manning, dropped during this crucial time, when Americans were forced to confront the truth of what the United States government was doing in our names. The Collateral Murder video, which showed an Apache helicopter indiscriminately mowing down journalists and civilians, then firing on a rescue vehicle while soldiers laughed, changed everything. Suddenly, questioning the legality and morality of the US was mainstream.
The Logs gave proof to Iraqi society of the extent to which US forces had been killing civilians. Just as Washington, through Sec- retary of Defense Robert Gates, was in Baghdad trying to extend the US military presence in the country, WikiLeaks made this untenable. Who knows what turn the war could have taken were it not for these revelations?
Julian Assange boosted the potential for accountability. As an aspiring journalist, I was moved by his conviction and willingness to make great personal sacrifices to represent this powerful truthtelling effort. The overwhelming sense of despair I felt turned to hope in the potential for great change.
Authoritarian governments shook. The US Empire was unmasked, and the imperial project was in danger of unraveling. It was a time of incredible optimism and inspiring mass movements, with the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and organizations such as Anonymous and WikiLeaks using technology to take huge risks to expose the seemingly impenetrable elite.
It was during this transformative era that I moved to Washington, DC, to work at Russia Today, and came to know and appreciate the work of journalist Kevin Gosztola. I was immediately impressed with Kevin’s intellect and meticulousness through his coverage of WikiLeaks.
He was one of the only journalists to report on Manning’s court-martial, tirelessly documenting every detail while being one of the leading advocates for her freedom. I spoke to him frequently on my show BreakingtheSet,about the injustices of her case as well as the plight of whistleblowers and revelations of WikiLeaks. Ever since then, he has been my primary source for these pivotal subjects.
Kevin’s coverage of Assange is built on his coverage of Manning’s court-martial. Weaving in what he recalls from the Manning case adds an extra level of credibility to his journalism on Assange.
Years after the liberal establishment — who once heaped praise upon Assange — abandoned him in droves, Kevin has not relented in his dedication to the case. He is one of the only journalists to provide ongoing and consistent coverage of the intricacies of Assange’s trial, which Kevin reports with impressive depth and honesty.
He warned us years ago of the profound implications that indicting Assange would have, and the story he tells here should serve as a beacon for us.
For years, the US government has prosecuted whistleblowers with extreme prejudice. No one embarrasses the Empire without paying dearly in prison. But Assange was only publishing the leaks. He never committed any crime. He only published evidence of the crimes. WikiLeaks released more classified information than the rest of the world’s media combined, which is a testament to the utter failure of the world’s media to fulfill their primary function –– hold power to account.
After being told he was a Russian agent since 2016, the indictment and extradition against Assange today has nothing to do with the 2016 election or Russia. It has everything to do with the Iraq and Afghanistan War logs. Exposing war crimes and war criminals. Tainting the image of the United States. Showing the world this is how the US imposes its world order under the hypocritical banner of “human rights” and “democracy.”
They’ve come at Assange with the full brunt of their power because they have to set fear in the rest of us. They have to instill a chilling effect that will reverberate for generations: this is what can happen to you if you try to replicate Assange’s work. This can be your fate, if you dare to challenge us.
Today, the model they used to discredit Assange is now deployed against anyone in the media who contradicts official war narratives.
The burgeoning hope of transparency and accountability of the WikiLeaks era has been extinguished. The internet is now carefully curated and crafted for us by tech overlords, who work hand in hand with state forces.
Assange’s story is of major historical importance –– both for exposing the crimes of the past and setting a precedent for the future. Against a wall of coverage that aims to attack and discredit him, works such as this book, which accurately document his case, are essential for today and for tomorrow.
We need to organize the resistance to the Empire with eyes wide open, and that cannot happen without this story being properly told. The ramifications of his case for journalists everywhere will keep imperial crimes in the shadows, and if we simply give up and allow Assange to wither away in that black box, this country is beyond saving. Prosecuting Assange will be its death knell.
Since 2010, MICKEY HUFF has been director of Project Censored (founded in 1976), and has been president of its parent nonprofit, Media Freedom Foundation, since 2016. He has co-edited each annual volume of the book Censored dating back to 2009, and has contributed numerous chapters to those works. His most recent books include United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America (and what we can do about it) co-authored with Nolan Higdon (from City Lights Publishers, 2019) and Censored 2020: Through the Looking Glass (co-edited with long-time associate director of the Project, Andy Lee Roth). In spring of 2019, Huff won the Beverly Kees Educator Award as part of the 2019 James Madison Freedom of Information Awards from the Society for Professional Journalists, Northern California. Currently, Huff is professor of social science and history at Diablo Valley College, where he co-chairs the History Department. He is also a lecturer in the Communications Department at California State University, East Bay, and has taught Sociology of Media at Sonoma State University. He is also executive producer and cohost of The Project Censored Show, the weekly syndicated public affairs program that originates from KPFA in Berkeley, CA, and airs on roughly 50 stations across the US.
Andy Lee Roth is the associate director of Project Censored, where he coordinates the Project’s Validated Independent News program. His research, on topics ranging from ritual to communities organizing for parklands, has been published in journals including the International Journal of Press/Politics; Social Studies of Science; Media, Culture & Society; City & Community; and Sociological Theory. Roth earned a PhD in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA in sociology and anthropology at Haverford College. A native of California, he now lives in Washington State.
PROJECT CENSORED, founded in 1976 by Carl Jensen at Sonoma State University, has as its principal objective the advocacy for and protection of First Amendment rights, including freedom of information. In 2008, Project Censored received the PEN/Oakland Literary Censorship Award. Most recently, Project Censored received the 2014 Pillar Award in Journalism and New Media, given annually to persons of conscience, conviction, and achievement who stand up for what’s right and what’s true in the face of corporate and political intimidation. For more information, visit www.projectcensored.org.