Fidel Narváez’s complaint challenges The Guardian’s reporting about Assange

Fidel Narváez’s complaint to The Guardian over their reporting on Julian Assange contests several articles of key contention. These include reports of a plan to smuggle Assange to Russia, and of a series of meetings between Paul Manafort and Julian Assange.

Regarding the story about the plot to squirrel Assange away to Russia, Narváez says that he was the only identified source, but that he knows of no such plot, nor has he spoken to any Russian diplomats about Assange.

I am the only identified source, portrayed as “a close confidante of Julian Assange” and yet I explained to The Guardian journalist, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, who contributed to the article, that ‘I know of no “escape plan” to “smuggle” Julian Assange out of the Embassy, much less in collaboration with a third country. I have never spoken to a Russian diplomat in London, or anywhere else, about Julian Assange’s case, or anything else’.

The Guardian has not, and cannot, substantiate with solid evidence its following false assertions:

  • “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK…”
  • “A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the Wikileaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy…”

The reference to me: ” …Fidel Narváez, a close confidante of Assange who until recently served as Ecuador’s London consul, served as a point of contact with Moscow,” is a defamatory untruth and must be proved or retracted with a public apology, in recognition of harm caused me through associating me with Russian plots.

The reach of The Guardian in the UK, and the times the report has been used by media worldwide as the basis for their own inaccurate reporting, has caused irreparable damage to my reputation, career, and untold other aspects.

The Guardian replied that their article noted his denial, but also cited his Narváez’s close relationship with Assange and his role in helping Edward Snowden reach Moscow. “I am not aware of evidence of inaccuracy, though I acknowledge your denial,” the editor said near the close of their email.

Narváez replied that “The inclusion of my denial in the article does not change the fact that, overall, the newspaper has published a fabricated “escape” story, placing me at its centre… A false story cannot hide behind unspecified ‘good grounds’ for confidence. I challenge the veracity of those grounds, and the reliability of the journalist’s “sources”. The Guardian has not provided evidence in the article to corroborate the source’s false statements but has instead cited known or partial facts in order to lend credence to a central falsehood.”

He also challenged the characterization of his role in the Snowden matter. “The document I issued for Edward Snowden was to help him get to Ecuador, not to Moscow.”

The editor responded in a lengthy letter that read, in part:

Having considered again the article and your responses (of 9 October and 16 November), and having again consulted all three journalists about the basis for the phrase appearing in the article, I have again concluded that the article does not fall below the editorial standards.

I cannot go into detail about the sources, but I can assure you that I have tested with the journalists the underpinnings of the relevant section of the article and, as presently advised, I believe that it does not require amendment.

In my view it is more likely than not that you were involved in the plan, executed unsuccessfully and dismantled in late 2017/early 2018, to make Julian Assange an Ecuadorian citizen, then diplomat and then post him to Moscow from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been a resident since 2012.

My conclusion largely rests on these factors –

• Much of your longstanding service at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which I understand ended in about the middle of this year, coincided with the period in which Julian Assange has been a resident. You were among those in closest proximity to him in what is a small place.

• In 2013, when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks assisted the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, you personally provided the document necessary for Snowden’s travel, and when he first was in Moscow you were involved in efforts to help him further.

• During at least part of the period relevant to the plan for Julian Assange to serve as a diplomat in Russia you were, in the ambassador’s absence, in charge of embassy affairs.

• Official documents demonstrate your involvement in the plan. For example, after the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) declined to recognise Julian Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat (Note No A295/17) the Ecuadorian authorities revoked his appointment as political counsellor in London and his posting to Moscow and you were designated to advise Julian Assange of the revocations.

Having reviewed, in light of the documents, notes of the interview in August 2018 between you and one of the three authors of the article, I think it is fair to note that, in my view, what the documents indicate about your knowledge of the plan points in a different direction than some of your answers in the interview.

The editor also suggested that Narváez could file an appeal with the Review Panel, which Narváez said he would do.

You can read the exchange below, or download a copy here.

Complaint by Fidel Narváez to The Guardian STAGE ONE