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By CHICO ALENCAR*

The deafening silence of the Brazilian press in the face of the persecution of Julian Assange is impressive

Last week did not just bring a note worthy of the president of the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), Vice Admiral Antônio Barra Torres, challenging President Jair Bolsonaro to prove the accusations he has been making to the agency.

There was another piece of good news, in fact, two, amid a lot of bad events: last Monday, January 3rd, the Justice of the United Kingdom decided not to extradite Julian Assange to the United States. Immediately, the government of Mexico went public to offer political asylum to the Australian journalist who created Wikileaks, which was announced at a press conference by President Lopez Obrador.

Assange has been out of circulation for ten years. First, a refugee at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Then, from 2019 until now, incarcerated in a British prison. This is all due to pressure from the US government. If he were extradited to the United States, the journalist could be sentenced to sentences that, added, would reach 175 years in prison – that is, he would be in prison for life.

It sounds absurd. And is.

The decision announced by the Mexican president is in line with his country's ancient tradition of granting asylum to politically persecuted people. Already after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which produced more than 200 political refugees, due to the persecutions that the Franco-fascists promoted on a large scale against supporters of the Republic, Mexico was one of the main destinations of those affected. Leon Trotsky himself, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution of 1917, was in asylum in that country when, in 1940, he was assassinated by an agent of Joseph Stalin's political police.

Later, during the Estado Novo dictatorship in Brazil (1937-1945), when the mother of Luís Carlos Prestes, Leocádia, who was exiled in Mexico, died, President Lázaro Cardenas showed solidarity with the communist leader. He asked the Brazilian courts to authorize Prestes, who was imprisoned at the time, to travel to that country for his mother's funeral. Cárdenas even offered to come to Brazil and remain in prison during the period when Prestes was burying his mother, as a guarantee that he would not take advantage of the trip to escape. This act was of the greatest significance, even more so coming from a President of the Republic.

Now, the offer of asylum to Assange is nothing more than the reaffirmation of an old and beautiful tradition of Mexico.

But, after all, what terrible crime would the Australian journalist have committed to be the target of such hatred?

Well, he simply made public, on the internet, criminal actions of the US government, including starting wars without congressional authorization and murdering civilians in large numbers. Is the disclosure of this, by any chance, a crime?

But the Assange episode gives us the opportunity to reflect on two other very important points. The first is the imperial behavior of the United States. If the release outside the United States of documents proving crimes bothered Washington, that's not a problem with the press. Assange's role, as a journalist, was to disseminate that information, which was of public interest and was duly confirmed.

The fact that some bureaucrat stamped “top secret” on a document does not oblige anyone who is not an employee of the US government to keep it confidential. Assange did what any journalist committed to the truth of the facts, democracy, human rights and the ethics of his profession would do: he disseminated the documents. In fact, any citizen committed to these values ​​of universal importance, regardless of their profession, should take the same attitude.

The second point to be remembered is the deafening silence of the Brazilian press regarding the episode. The persecution of Assange has worldwide repercussions and is an attempt to restrict the democratization of information – an essential banner in any civilized society.

But in our country not a single word on the subject was seen in the mainstream press.

It is a pity that the Brazilian media has tried to hide it. This takes away your authority when dealing with any other issue related to freedom of expression, an issue that is so relevant in a democracy.

Even so, there are reasons to celebrate: democracy and human rights gain a lot from Assange's release, which seems to be close.

Viva Assange, a professional of good information and democracy.

* Chico Alencar is a professor of history, writer and councilor at the City Council of Rio de Janeiro.

 

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