The lie of freedom of the press

In March 2020, the former First Minister of Scotland, Alexander Salmond, was found not guilty by a jury in all sexual harassment and attempted rape cases. Craig Murray took part in two days of hearings and had reported extensively on the non-public case against Salmond and how he had expressed the suspicion that there had been collusion between witnesses, the Scottish National Party SNP and government officials in order to discredit Salmond. The case against Salmond was politically motivated, as he had pursued a much more radical course on the issue of Scottish independence than his successor Nicola Sturgeon.

As with all cases in the United Kingdom (UK) involving sexual violence, the names of witnesses and possible victims should not be mentioned, but surprisingly the name of the defendant (not yet) found guilty. In his reporting, Craig Murray had adhered to this requirement, but the court accused him of publishing details of witnesses that might have made it possible to identify witnesses in connection with personal knowledge and other articles, possibly years old.

Craig Murray says that many of the mainstream media and, piquantly, one of Salmond’s most outspoken critics, Dani Garavelli, have published much more and more often details that could lead to witness identification than himself. His defense attorneys said this would not matter, but Murray still wonders why he is the only one being prosecuted for it.

The sentence of 8 months imprisonment seems to be a novelty in this case. Normally, a fine would be imposed in such a case. Also, the fact that Craig Murray has cardiovascular problems and is the father of a 2-month-old baby was not considered by Judge Dorrian as mitigating. It is also remarkable that this is the same judge who presided over the case against Salmond, and who probably at least irritated Murray with his critical reporting on it.

I know Craig Murray personally from London, where we met almost daily around the Assange trial. He is a sympathetic person with a strong sense of justice and a keen analytical mind. He has written daily reports of the trial of Julian Assange with great discipline. On Saturday I met him briefly on the sidelines of an online conference and at least he concealed his concern about the sentence announcement in three days.

Craig Murray was London’s ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. When he did not stop reporting on human rights violations and torture in that country, he was summoned to London and, after some back and forth, removed from his post. Since then, he has been running his blog, in which he comments on issues of British and international politics.

The verdict of Tuesday was received by many observers with incomprehension and concern. Hugh Kerr, a former deputy chairman of the National Union of Journalists, said to The Dissenter that he considered both the verdict and the sentence in Murray’s case “disgraceful.” “This decision poses a real threat to civil liberties,” Kerr said.

“A crucial point, of course, is that the women at risk of being identified have all remained anonymous while Alex Salmond’s life has been destroyed and Craig Murray’s life is about to be destroyed as well.“I know that Craig will appeal not only to the Supreme Court, but also to the European Court of Human Rights. He will do this with the support of many people in Scotland and many people around the world,” Kerr added.

Noam Chomsky tweeted: “Craig Murray has shown a remarkable record of courage and integrity in uncovering state crimes and what he has done to bring them to an end. He fully deserves our deep respect and support for his achievements.

There are also voices critical of Craig Murray’s reporting, such as Annie Brown in the Daily Record. However, when I read in your mood-laden article blank sentences like: “Murray’s name is proclaimed in the same breath as Julian Assange, and while both have often rightly been hailed as human rights activists, they have shown little respect for the human rights of women who dare to speak their own truth to the powerful,” then I become very skeptical. It is simply an assertion that takes up existing prejudices, but is not concretely substantiated. The cases of Assange, Salmond and Craig Murray are very complex. One does not do them justice by sentences or articles like the one quoted.

In all three cases, it seems to me that possible mistakes or weaknesses of these three men have been exploited to destroy them publicly and to silence them as critics of the establishment. In the case of Julian Assange, this campaign has been pushed to the extreme by many media and governments, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, described this in detail in his book published on 20 April.

In the case of Craig Murray, this is currently being attempted again, and the fact that he cannot testify in Madrid in favour of Julian Assange in the trial against the surveillance company UC Global because he had to surrender his passport on Tuesday fits into this picture. Craig Murray now has three weeks to appeal this verdict. This fight will probably go through the courts and it will be a costly thing for him and therefore he is asking for support here.