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Assange extradition “a devastating blow for media freedom”

5 February 2020

The judicial instruments being used against Julian Assange are a monstrous attack on press freedom, NUJ national executive member Tim Dawson told a rally in London.

Unless journalists wake up to this threat and focus on the grievous harm that his successful prosecution represents, the ability of any of us to report will seriously damaged, he said. The rally, called by the Don't Extradite Julian Assange Campaign, was convened in anticipation of Assange extradition hearings, expected to start at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday 24 February.

An audience estimated at 600 also heard from Jen Robinson, Assange’s barrister, John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, and Kristinn Hrafnsson, and Wikileaks editor-in-chief.

Tim Dawson said:

“Debating whether Assange is, or is not, really a journalist is irrelevant at this moment. So are judgements on his past behaviour or character. The legal devices being deployed to try and take him to the US are unprecedented and terrifying for anyone whose journalism touches on state security, defence or espionage. If Assange is sent from here to start a prison sentence that could be as long as 175 years, then no journalist is safe.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Meltzer told the rally that he visited Assange in prison in May last year on an official visit to respond to reports of Assange’s psychological torture accompanied by a medical doctor and a psychiatrist. They examined and interviewed Assange for three hours in line with the internationally recognised ‘Istanbul protocol’. His report on this inspection stated that he believed that Assange showed clear symptoms of having been psychologically tortured.

Jen Robinson told the meeting that there had been serious breaches of process in her client’s treatment. These included client/lawyer meetings in the Ecuadorean embassy being secretly recorded on behalf of the US authorities, and her repeated denial of access to speak with Assange in prison.

Kristinn Hrafnsonn said that charges that Wikileaks “dumped” data unedited were unfounded and said that no one had ever come forward to say that an individual had suffered any harm because of his website’s revelations. He also pointed out that there had been no prosecutions resulting from evidence published that clearly showed war crimes being committed.

Event organiser John Rees said he took hope from recent events at HMP Belmarsh, where the Wikileaks founder is detained. A petition by  inmates said Assange’s detention in solitary confinement was "unfair and unjust". As the result, the prison governor moved him to a conventional cell.

There will be a march calling for the Assange’s extradition to be abandoned on Saturday 22 February, assembling in Aldwych at 13.30. 

Tags: , julian assange, press freedom, media freedom, extradition, espionage, espionage act, wikileaks