The New York Times reports that together with four European news organisations – the Guardian, Le Monde, El País, Der Spiegel – they have called on the United States government to drop its charges against Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets. The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then US soldier Chelsea Manning
Media groups call for Assange charges to be dropped
In a joint open letter, the New York Times, Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the [US] First Amendment and the freedom of the press.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.
“Holding governments accountable is part of the core mission of a free press in a democracy.
“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.
“Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate’, [the name given to the release of the US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks] it is time for the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.”
Each of the five news organisations worked with Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, which enabled news outlets to publish articles containing notable revelations.
Assange held in prison
Assange continues to held in Belmarsh maximum security prison in south east London where he has spent the last three years since his arrest on being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy.
In August, Assange’s legal team launched an appeal against his extradition which had been approved by the then home secretary, Priti Patel, in June. The High Court must agree to hear Assange’s appeal before it can proceed. If this is rejected, his legal team intends to pursue the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Yorkshire Bylines reported that more than seven thousand people joined hands to form a human chain around the Palace of Westminster on Saturday 9 October to protest against Assange’s extradition and demand his freedom. They linked arms outside parliament along Westminster Bridge over the River Thames and along the South Bank to Lambeth Bridge and back to the houses of parliament.