Rarely does a lobbyist listen to someone and feel utterly impressed, no strings or cautious thoughts attached…Or at least, not an “old rot” like me…But today, just for a few minutes, I felt like “not all was lost”…that some sense would come out of the ongoing debates on how to “handle the Internet” if someone with the eloquence, brains and proven delivery record of Julian Assange could be invited to speak in a place such as the European Parliament, in the context of the ALDE organised debate on (Self) Censorship and Freedom of Expression in Europe.
And so he did, and he did well, at both a philosophical level and in terms of quoting facts, cases, real life. Sitting on the panel was also the representative of the Icelandic Parliament that spearheaded their “Safe Haven” law for publishers and whistle blowers, and a professor specialised in libel and defamation laws, whom I will not name just in case he sues me for “attacking his reputation”, as he seemed really gung ho on that one.
I would encourage everyone to listen to the debate once it gets posted [Addition on 8 July: video embedded below - thanks to commentators] on the ALDE website , as it is worth listening, for the immense sadness one feels when listening to some of the comments in terms of balance of rights and freedoms some seem to deem appropriate, and some of the hallucinating exchanges that took place between Mr Assange and the unnamed lawyer, of which my favourite was [quoting from memory - only the actual recording should be considered accurate]:
Lawyer: “In this case, the BBC claimed people died and that was wrong”
Assange “How do you know it was wrong?”
Lawyer “Because the BBC paid damages and settled”
Assange “So you are saying that settling out of court for strategical reasons and to avoid heavy legal fees means they were wrong. Over 100.000 people had to go to the hospital due to that event and BBC said that as a result, 14 died. How unbelievable is that? How wrong could they be?”
Lawyer “I didn’t say they were wrong”
Assange “Yes, you just did”
Lawyer “I can’t remember what I just said”
Assange, turning to the audience “OK, people: do you remember what he just said?”".
I guess Lincoln’s statement that to be a good liar, you need to have a good memory could also apply to lawyers speaking on panels at the European Parliament…
Update 8 July: Please find below the full video of the EP hearing