I still maintain the main reason there is such a wall of censorship in mainstream circles about the Julian Assange situation is that if people knew the situation he is in and why, they would be absolutely enraged.
I know I have been. On many, many occasions.
Cutting through the wall of censorship surrounding him in the UK is an almost impossible task for an Assange supporter. The authorities here have all the usual avenues of information blocked from saying almost anything about him at all.
One supporter I know, Derek Jardine, came up with a novel idea in early March this year to highlight Julian’s continued incarceration in HMP Belmarsh – to try advertising the Slogan “Free Julian Assange” on London Buses.
Armed with a £3000 budget, he began making enquiries into what sort of exposure a campiagn like this would get in the general public, especially since the UK has basically been in lockdown since December and were about to venture out once again into the wilderness of the city.
His original contact didn’t think it would be a problem, and estimates were drawn up. Derek even got to work on his Photoshop skills spending half an hour coming up with a mock-up of his campaign idea:
Derek’s original idea for a T-shape ad on the side of buses would have cost too much for his budget, however a 5ft x 2ft ad would cost about £135 per bus for 4 weeks per bus so he began making plans for which routes in London were best bang for his buck.
The best routes through London’s landmarks were being considered. The #11 and #87 went through Parliament Square, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Strand, the High court and in the case of the #11, The Old Bailey.
However, Derek’s hopes were dashed when the unit that scrutinizes advertising copy refused any potential order from Derek on the grounds the “it contains images or messages which relate to public controversy or sensitivity.”
Undeterred, he attempted to try a similar campaign on London Bus stops, however Copy Referral denied the campaign on the basis of “controversy” and “sensitivity.”
Derek appealed. After all, how can the case for Julian Assange’s freedom be a “controversial” subject? Almost every human rights organization in the world calls for his release, “Please don’t throw Julian under the bus. Please help us to free Julian Assange, to defend free speech and to thereby defend democracy itself”, he finished his letter with.
Please don’t throw Julian under the bus.”Derek Jardine
No dice. Again, Copy Referral denied Derek’s campaign for the same reasons.
Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, says in his new book that Julian Assange is a journalist who used a new platform, “to expose the dirty secrets of powerful governments, including war crimes, corruption and torture. However it isn’t the war criminals and torturers that are punished, but the journalist who brought these crimes to light.”
If that is the case, and I assure you that it it is, then how in the world can informing the public of his plight be sensitive or controversial? Surely in a democratic society informing the public that their governing elite have incarcerated a journalist for doing journalism better than anybody else is something we should all be yodeling as loud as we possibly can?
Alas, Derek’s plan was thwarted by the people who tick boxes in the Copy Referral department, which I assume looks exactly like something out of a Douglas Adams book.
Derek isn’t the only one to face censorship when attempting to highlight the Assange case. Chinese artist Ai WeiWei recently complained that organizers of “The Great Big Art Exhibition” used his name to promote the show, only to then ignore his communications for 27 days once he submitted his artwork titled “Postcard for Political Prisoners“, a picture of a treadmill given to him by Assange.
The reasons the exhibition’s organizers, First Site, were unable to use Ai’s artwork for the exhibition were “…the timing of when the idea came through” and “the concept of the project is to encourage people across the nation to make artworks and display them in their windows”, whereas Ai’s idea was for people to physically send the postcard to political prisoners around the world.
Pretty lame excuses if you ask me, don’t you agree?
Regardless of this setback, Ai has continued to bring attention to Julian’s situation, Assange supporters are used to obstacles in the way, and Derek is no exception.
Undeterred by his latest setback, another idea rose from the ashes of his London Bus advertising idea: Billboards.
He made inquiries as to whether political advertisements were accepted by UKBillboards.com, and was delighted to find out that they were running advertisements for London Mayoral candidates at the time, however when the name Julian Assange came up they said they “wouldn’t touch that with a bargepole.”
Another company Derek tried who were running a billboard close to Belmarsh Prison ultimately ceased contact after first assuring him it wouldn’t be a problem, a pattern was emerging.
Derek’s persistence paid off when a few days later a contact he’d made from his London Bus enquiries put him in touch with a supplier that would run his campaign – and not only that, but it could be done for half the price Derek was originally quoted.
Billboards in London with the tagline “Journalism is not a crime” with an image of the “Collaterall Murder” video ran for 4 weeks at these four locations:
The good news doesn’t stop there. Derek is currently working on a second phase of billboards on 8 sites for a similar price, including a prominent 40 x 10 foot billboard on the Essex-bound A13, and Misty Winston from the Action4Assange crew in the US is currently running a fundraiser for similar campaigns in 2 different locations in the Columbus Ohio area. You can donate to their fundraiser here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/us-billboards-for-assange
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