The extradition of Assange is really about a free press

Activists in Brazil (above) and across the world support Assange. PHOTO: Pablo Vergara / Landless Workers’ Movement (MST)
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For years the United States has attempted to extradite Julian Assange, founder and publisher of Wikileaks, to face “espionage” charges.

His fate rests, as this paper goes to press, in the hands of the British High Court. Will the United Kingdom bow to a vindictive U.S. government?

Not if enough pressure is applied. Assange has garnered massive international support for his cause. The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais are a few of the publications that have advocated for his release. The prime ministers of Germany and Australia have beseeched the U.S. to drop all charges. The United Nations called for an end to the persecution.

During the last round of hearings in London, hundreds protested outside the court. In cities across the globe, people rallied in his defense.

No journalist has ever been prosecuted for espionage in the U.S. for disseminating secret government files. None of the other newspapers or reporters who republished the same information have been charged.

Assange’s real crime is embarrassing Uncle Sam. He published classified U.S. Army information about its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

That is why a grand jury indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one for computer misuse. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years behind bars.

This persecution is happening in the context of increasing attacks against journalists worldwide. In the last 20 years 1,668 have been killed. Others have been imprisoned. Freedom of the press is severely threatened under a rising tide of authoritarianism, as is all free speech.

In the U.S., the criminalization of leakers and reporters really began with Obama. Then Trump put the demonization of the press on steroids with frequent attacks on reporters as the “enemy of the people” and creators of “fake news.”

This flagrant attack on the press must stop. Free speech and the open exchange of ideas is essential for a healthy society. Drop the charges! End the persecution of Julian Assange!

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