Assange warns Madrid could block the Internet and recommends Catalans to use communications systems that the Spanish intelligence services cannot pierce
Joan Antoni Guerrero (Barcelona)
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, defined the conflict between the Spanish State and the Catalan pro-Independence movement as “an unprecedented model of repression in a modern and connected society, unheard of for a long time” and warned that strategies being applied in Catalonia – including blocking access to the internet- may be followed by other western countries.
Assange held a videoconference, organized by the Univeristats x la República (Universities x the Republic) platform, broadcast at the doors of the University of Barcelona (UB) before hundreds of people. Assange explained that it was the unprecedented nature of the situation in Catalonia that caught his interest and feel worried about the current process because, he claims, there is a lot at stake, beyond the 1st October referendum. Indeed, he said, it is an example of how the intelligence services in a modern society may use mass surveillance methods in order to “repress” the expression of “political will”.
“Catalans need to worry, not only for themselves and the rest of the Spanish State, but for the rest of the western world”, where these repressive methods, on the basis of the population’s skills at communication and organization, “might be understood”, stated the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange claimed that a couple of months ago he was worried about a “repressive escalation such as this” by way of internet censorship, spying of movements of people, arrests and the physical presence of police and Guardia Civil “in that ridiculous ship”, referring to the cruise ship docked in Barcelona Port which is decorated with Looney Tunes characters.
Mr Assange pointed out that, in spite of the efforts by the Spanish State to control the situation, the Catalan government has been far more successful in their strategy. Assange also analysed the role of the press in this context and said that mainstream media (specifically identifying the “el Pais” daily newspaper), “linked to the Establishment”, have become “vehicles of propaganda of the State apparatus”.
The activist dedicated part of his presentation to pointing out the importance of information and the need to preserve privacy in order to avoid Spanish intelligence services from having the capability of infiltrating and acting in consequence. “This is a conflict between the capacity of the Catalan State and its people to be organized among themselves and the skill of the Spanish State in disorganizing the Catalan organization”, he highlighted. This is why the first arrests were figures related with the organization of the referendum, communication and encouraging the vote.
The founder of WikiLeaks recalled that the Spanish State has an apparatus of 7000 intelligence officers dedicated to controlling the situation in Catalonia so it is “essential to defend Catalan human rights against mass surveillance of their communications”. Assange considers that access to this information is crucial for the forces of oppression to act and boycott the currant movement, “a peaceful and democratic movement”. “The question is – he said – who is able to observe, understand and act”.
Julian Assange recommended that Catalans should prepare for a possible block of communications by downloading apps allowing encrypted messages. He mentioned FireChat, Signal and Telegram among others. Preserving the capability of autonomous organisation is probably one of the most important aspects to be maintained to avoid the Spanish intelligence apparatus from stopping the civil mobilization.