In New York, after the British government ordered the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the family of the WikiLeaks founder was interviewed in front of the British consulate and spoke of the possibility of stopping that decision. Once on American soil, the Australian will be tried for espionage, among other charges, which could lead to life imprisonment. LPO interviewed the president of the National Writers Union (NWU), and member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Larry Goldbetter.
Since April 2019, when the Ecuadorian government revoked his political asylum at its London embassy, Assange has been at the Belmarsh maximum security prison. Three years later, the British justice approved his extradition to the United States, which had been requested by the Department of Justice of that country. The only pending decision was signed last Friday by the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Priti Patel.
The legal body of WikiLeaks will appeal to that decision, but if it is unsuccessful, the American justice system will try him for the dissemination of secret documents on diplomatic and military activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The consequence could lead to up to 175 years in prison.
Press unions, press freedom defense organizations and political leaders from several countries have come out to question and oppose Assange's extradition, and among them is the NWU, whose president was interviewed by LPO.
What analysis do you make of the British government's decision to authorize Assange's extradition?
The fight has not ended. We stand in solidarity with John and Gabriel Shipton (father and brother of Assange) in calling on the administration of President Biden to withdraw the extradition request. Furthermore, we support the appeal of this unacceptable decision made in London.
It doesn't matter what one thinks about Julian personally; he is under attack for doing what investigative journalists do every day, discovering hidden facts and bringing them to light. He was tortured for exposing US and UK war crimes in the invasion of Iraq but he has the support of Daniel Ellesberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, and the vast majority of journalists around the world.
How should the press interpret this case?
This isn't just directed at Julian, it's about investigative journalism, journalists, sources, and whistleblowers. As the global political climate continues to turn to right-wing parties, the media and its workers are under attack, are being jailed, have disappeared, and in the case of Shireen Abu Akleh (Palestinian journalist) and many others, have been targeted and killed.
How do you see the freedom of press during the Biden administration?
Although we have not reached the level of attacks here, such as in Palestine or Mexico, for example, the Biden administration is determined to extradite and punish Julian for exposing war crimes that the president himself voted for as a Senator.
Under Obama, we saw the largest number of cases against journalists and whistleblowers in history. And, of course, Trump labeled the media the enemy of the people; and during the fascist insurrection of January 6 (2021), media workers and their teams were attacked. In 2020, more than 400 journalists were attacked, over 150 were arrested, and an excess of 100 reported that their equipment was damaged while working, according to The US Press Freedom Tracker. The attack on journalists and the press is an attack on the public's right to know; an attack to the heart of any democracy.
In early June, you participated in the Global Conference of the International Federation of Journalists in Oman. Did they address the Assange case?
The Conference strongly endorsed Julian Assange, and his Attorney, Jennifer Robinson, addressed the Conference. In the audiovisual material to which the interviewee refers, several questions are asked to the lawyer, including: What does the actual extradition imply? She replied that if the appeal is unsuccessful, a new appeal will be sought before the European Court of Human Rights.
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