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Assange’s prosecution creates grave risk

20 November 2020

Julian Assange will most likely take his own life, if he is convicted, an online meeting for NUJ members has heard. Jen Robinson, lawyer to the Wikileaks founder for a decade, told members that her client “had hardly been able to hold a conversation when he was in solitary confinement in Belmarsh”.

The meeting, attended by nearly 100 NUJ activists, provided an update on the extradition hearing and called on the journalists everywhere to campaign for his release. You can view a recording of the event.

Alan Rusbridger, former Guardian editor-in-chief, opened the online gathering. “The move to extradite Julian Assange is disturbing – as is the mute response among journalists,” he said. “Assange is accused of doing things that journalists do. He is accused of having an amazing source who was giving him information, and he encouraged that source to give him more information. If we allow Assange to be convicted, it will have huge implications for anyone who wants to do investigative journalism.”

Jen Robinson described the stark experience of seeing someone “who is responsible for some of the most significant publications of recent years…having his liberty restricted for over a decade”.

Tim Dawson, NUJ national executive council member, who observed the extradition hearing on behalf of the union and the IFJ, encouraged members to seek out the actual changes laid against Assange. He said: “The Espionage Act of 1917 under which he is charged has far more often been used to prosecute trades union and working-class leader than it has spies. It is a discretionary cosh used to harass and lock up civic activists. Extended its scope to journalists, as this prosecution would, is a terrifying prospect.”

Séamus Dooley, who chaired the meeting, closed with a promise: “The barbarous treatment of Julian Assange, whose sin has been to expose truth, means that this is an issue with which journalists cannot become bored. Our challenge as a union is to develop a strategy to ensure that does not happen. It is not one that we will shirk.”

Tags: , julian assange, wikileaks, extradition, media freedom, Alan Rusbridger