The Prosecution of Julian Assange and Its Impact on the Freedom of the Press
On 30 January 2020, at the National Press Club’s First Amendment Lounge in Washington D.C., a panel of experts discussed the Trump Administration’s indictment of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and the impact Assange’s extradition and prosecution could have on the freedom of the press.
- Jameel Jaffer, Director, Knight First Amendment Institute
- Amy Jeffress, Attorney, former US Department of Justice
- Ben Wizner, Director, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project
- Mary-Rose Papandrea, Constitutional Law Professor, UNC
This event was organised by the Courage Foundation. See upcoming events for Julian Assange here.
Support the Courage Foundation’s campaign to defend Assange and WikiLeaks here.
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Julian Assange’s mother reported yesterday that the WikiLeaks founder has not been permitted any visitors during his detention in Belmarsh Prison, including from doctors and his lawyers. Doctors who visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy have attested that he urgently needs medical care. Belmarsh is a maximum security prison sometimes referred to as “the UK’s Guantanamo Bay“.
And yet we’re asked to believe that this has something to do with an alleged bail violation and a US extradition request for alleged computer crimes carrying a maximum sentence of five years. If you zoom out and listen to the less-informed chatter of the overt propagandists and the brainwashed rank-and-file western mass media consumers, you will also see that people believe this has something to do with Russia and rape allegations as well.
Actually, none of these things are true. Assange is being imprisoned under draconian conditions for journalism, and for journalism only. The Obama administration declined to prosecute him after WikiLeaks’ publication of the Manning leaks out of concern that doing so would endanger press freedoms, and the Obama administration didn’t have any more evidence at its disposal than the Trump administration has now. The “crime” Assange is accused of consists of nothing other than standard journalistic practices that investigative journalists engage in all the time, including source protection and encouraging the source to obtain more material. The only thing that has changed is an increased willingness in the White House to prosecute journalists for practicing journalism, and there are an abundance of reasons to believe that he will be hit with far more serious charges once extradited to US soil. They’re not going to all this trouble for a bail violation and a five-year maximum sentence.
But if you zoom out even further, in the grand scheme of things this barely even has anything to do with Assange. Sure, he has of course been a thorn in the side of those who operate the transnational western power alliance, and given the choice they would of course prefer him to be locked up or dead than free and alive. But that’s not what the corrupt influencers who are strangling our world are shooting for here.
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