Free Julian Assange!

photo: Tim Dawson. Supporters outside the court in London.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is currently taking place in London. He has been behind bars in a British prison in the east of London since April 2019, and was initially held in solitary confinement. Assange is a member of the IFJ Australian affiliate MEAA and holds an IFJ press card.

He is being charged under the 1917 Espionage Act and faces 175 years in prison if he is extradited to the US and convicted. He is charged with aiding and encouraging Chelsea Manning to hack a US government computer in 2010, in order to publish hundreds of thousands of documents detailing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. These include the video Collateral murders, shot from onboard a US Apache helicopter and showing the deliberate shooting of Iraqi civilians by the US military. At least 18 people were killed in the incident, including two journalists from the Reuters agency.

While many in the US don’t “like” Assange for the role WikiLeaks played in aiding Trump in the 2016 election, that is not what he is on trial for. A conviction would be used against journalists around the world and could criminalize the possession of leaked documents, which is often at the heart of investigative journalism.

The Assange trial reminds us of the 1973 trial of Daniel Ellsberg who faced 115 years in prison under the same Espionage Act for leaking the Pentagon Papers and revealing the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia and the murderous lies by the US government.

WikiLeaks has partnered with five major news outlets: the New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El País (Spain). Yet those publications have provided little coverage of Assange’s extradition hearing. The Times has not even mentioned that it was one of WikiLeaks’ five major partners in leaking information that became known as CableGate.

NWU joins the 600,000 journalists represented by the IFJ and it’s 147 member unions, plus the other press freedom advocates, like PEN, Reporters Without Borders, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Investigative Journalism, FAIR and many more in demanding freedom for Julian Assange!