‘Dark day for press freedom’ as UK Home Secretary signs order to extradite Julian Assange

Press freedom groups have stressed the “dangerous implications” of the UK Home Secretary’s decision on Friday to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US.

Assange is wanted in the US for publishing classified US military files that were carried by mainstream media across the world. The leaks on Iraq alone amounted to a total of almost 4,000,000 documents from the US Department of Defence and had exposed war crimes.

In the US, Assange faces 18 criminal charges, including espionage charges. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison.

Announcing the UK Home Secretary’s decision, Wikileaks said it was “a dark day for press freedom”.

“This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy… foreign laws now determine the limits of press freedom in this country and the journalism that won the industry’s most prestigious prize has been deemed an extraditable offence and worthy of a life sentence.

Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up… their revenge is to try to make him disappear in the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account. We will not let this happen,” Wikileaks said.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders also condemned Patel’s decision, saying it will “have dangerous implications for journalism around the world.”

“We are deeply disappointed by the Home Secretary’s shameful decision to order the extradition of Julian Assange, which marks yet another failure by the UK government to protect press freedom and will have dangerous implications for journalism in this country and around the world,” RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, said in a statement.

Elaborating on this point during an interview with the BBC, Vincent said that if Assange’s case is taken to trial in the US he will be the first publisher to be pursued under the Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defence, so he will be “unable to defend himself adequately”, which will set a “dangerous precedent”.

On 17 and 18 May, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representatives in seven countries delivered a petition signed by nearly 64,000 supporters around the world urging UK Home Secretary Priti Patel not to sign the extradition order, and to protect journalism and press freedom by releasing Assange without further delay.

Twelve press freedom organisations had also written to Patel to express their “serious concern” about his extradition.

Assange’s extradition order was issued by the London court on 20 April, but Patel had to finalise the extradition by signing it off.

Press freedom NGO Article19 also warned that the decision will “erode media freedom“. Patel’s decision, the organisation said, “marks a dangerous precedent for journalists and publishers and undermines press freedom in a country once viewed as a leading force for the protection of freedom of expression.”

Assange and his team have been battling the decision legally for three years.

Assange’s lawyers now have two weeks to appeal the decision, which his wife Stella Assange and WikiLeaks have announced will be pursued.

In a press conference following the decision, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said the decision will be appealed and that the case would even be taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary.

“We will use every appeal mechanism available to us to prevent this extradition,” she said.


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1 year ago

Some champagne popping in Hillary’s house this week.

Last edited 1 year ago by viv

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