Freedom of press or Freedom oppressed?

One of the best ways to achieve justice is to expose injustice.”

This is a very strong statement from Julian Assange, age 49, the Australian editor who founded, in 2006, WikiLeaks, an international non-profit organisation that publishes news leaks by anonymous sources.

In 2010 WikiLeaks published a series of leaks from Chelsea Manning, a former US Army soldier; these included 250,000 US diplomatic cables, known as ‘Cablegate’, and a video called ‘Collateral Murder’ that shows a U.S. Apache helicopter in Baghdad mowing down 11 civilians, including two Reuters reporters, on 12 July 2007.
Since then, the US Government has launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange, to prosecute them under the Espionage Act, while Manning was convicted by court martial in July 2013 over violations of the Espionage Act.
After that, ‘with an incredible sense of timing’, an arrest warrant for Assange was issued from Sweden in August 2010 for two sexual assault allegations. These investigations will be dropped in May 2017 by the Swedish authorities, but in the meantime Assange had to seek refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London applying for political asylum in June 2012.
This was because Assange was concerned about how the Swedish allegations were designed to discredit him and were a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the United States.
Assange lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy for 7 years, continuing to be an activist for free information, but in 2019 Ecuador’s president Moreno, closely connected to the Trump administration and linked to a big corruption scandal, claimed that Assange had violated the terms of his asylum.
On 11 April 2019 Ecuador allowed the Metropolitan Police to enter the London Embassy and arrest Assange in connection with his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012 for extradition to Sweden, and since then Julian has been jailed in the high-security prison of Belmarsh whilst the USA continuously requests his extradition.
On 23 May 2019, Assange was indicted in USA on 17 new charges relating to the Espionage Act that carried a sentence of 170 years in prison.
On 4 January 2021, the District Judge Vanessa Baraitser sided with the US request of extradition, however she rejected it because she ruled that there was a serious concern about his mental health and a risk of suicide in a US prison (acknowledging the cruel conditions of the incarceration in the ‘Land of Liberty’); she also denied bail on the grounds that he could try to escape.
Sadly, despite many international human rights organizations urging the US Government to dismiss the indictment, the Biden administration confirmed a few weeks ago that they want to appeal the English Court’s decision.

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”

These words from Assange strengthen our belief: when civil rights, such as Press Freedom, are threatened this way, everyone should stand together and firmly declare their point of view.
Our position is completely in line with the following clear words from Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns for Reporters Without Borders.

As a matter of principle, no one should have to experience what Assange has endured over the past 10 years simply for publishing information in the public interest. He should not have to spend another moment unjustly deprived of his liberty. We call again for his immediate release on substantive, as well as humanitarian grounds.”

As a matter of fact, we must also report that the United States of America and the United Kingdom are respectively ranked 45th and 35th in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

#FREEASSANGE

The artwork is a derivative of https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Julian_Assange_August_2014.jpg
by David G Silvers
used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
by The Human Exploring Society.

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