UK: Protect media freedom and free Julian Assange

UK: Protect media freedom and free Julian Assange - Media

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Ahead of Julian Assange’s hearing at the High Court on 20 and 21 February, ARTICLE 19 urges the UK authorities to stop his extradition to the USA, and calls for his immediate release. 

This week, the High Court in London will consider Julian Assange’s final application to appeal his extradition order signed by the Home Secretary in June 2022. This could be the final hearing, which may lead to Assange’s extradition to the United States. 

Assange, a publisher and journalist, faces spying charges under the US Espionage Act for publishing more that 250,000 classified documents on the Wikileaks website in 2010. Assange and his legal team insist the documents have exposed gross human rights violations committed by the US army in Afghanistan and Iraq. If extradited and convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison. There are serious concerns that, if extradited, Assange will not be guaranteed a fair and just trial. 

Assange has spent almost five years in the high-security Belmarsh Prison; prior to this, he sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was granted asylum in 2012.

ARTICLE 19 has repeatedly raised concerns about criminal investigations into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as well as the prosecution of those who were sources of information, including Chelsea Manning. We further note that a US-UK treaty prohibits extradition on grounds of expressing political opinion. 

‘Julian Assange uncovered serious crimes and human rights violations. His extradition would criminalise journalism and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. We hope the ruling will be in his favour. 

‘The UK must stand up for press freedom and freedom of expression for journalists and activists who expose and report on criminal activity,’ says Quinn McKew, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director.