Press freedom bodies call for Assange charges to be dropped



Pressure is mounting on the United States as the date for Washington’s appeal Wednesday and Thursday approaches the High Court in London against a ruling rejecting its request for extradition of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange .

A group of more than 25 press freedom, civil liberties and international human rights organizations published A declaration mid-October, calling for the charges against Assange to be dropped.

On January 4, British District Judge Vanessa Baraister ruled that Assange should not be extradited, saying the risk of him committing suicide in a US prison was too high.

Assange faces criminal charges for posting classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.

The Australian, one of the the most famous hackers in the country, was arrested by British police on April 11, 2019 and returned from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had taken refuge after being granted asylum.

His asylum was withdrawn by Ecuador shortly before his arrest and he appeared in court shortly after. The United States filed a formal extradition request on June 6, 2019.

The letter was signed by Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Education Fund, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, First Amendment Coalition , Freedom of the Press Foundation, Free Press Unlimited, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, National Coalition Against Censorship, Open The Government Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight , Reporters Without Borders,, the First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Fund, and the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts.

The organizations said they were with one voice that the criminal case against Assange posed a serious threat to press freedom in the United States and abroad.

“We were disappointed that the Justice Department appealed the decision of Westminster Magistrates’ Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser to deny the Trump administration’s extradition request,” the statement said. “Especially in light of the recent reporting, we urge you to drop this appeal and dismiss the underlying indictment.”

The mentioned report claims that the CIA discussed plans in 2017 to kill or kidnap Assange.

The detailed story, published in September, said the US spy group was angry that WikiLeaks leaked some of its hacking tools that year, what the whistleblower organization called Shelter 7.

“As we explained in our previous letter, journalists routinely engage in many of the behaviors described in the indictment: speaking with sources, asking for clarification or more documentation, and receiving and publishing information. official secrets, ”the organizations said.

News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public about matters of deep public importance.

“We understand that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting good faith national security interests, but the prosecution of Assange jeopardizes journalism which is crucial to democracy.

“In our opinion, a precedent set by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists, crippling their work and undermining press freedom.

“Major news outlets share this concern. The charges against Assange have been condemned by virtually every major US news outlet, although many of those news outlets have criticized Assange in the past.

“In light of these concerns, and in light of the shocking new reports on the government’s conduct in this matter, we respectfully urge you to drop the pending appeal of Judge Baraitser’s decision and dismiss the act of accusation of Assange. “


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