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Open Letter to Journalists in the UK
On the 11thof April and relation to the arrest of Julian Assange Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary said:
“The NUJ is shocked and concerned by the actions of the authorities today in relation to Julian Assange. His lawyer has confirmed he has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request. The UK should not be acting on behalf of the Trump administration in this case. The NUJ recognises the inherent link between and importance of leaked confidential documents and journalism reporting in the public interest. It should be remembered that in April 2010 WikiLeaks released Collateral Murder, a video showing a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack upon individuals in Baghdad, more than 23 people were killed including two Reuters journalists. The manner in which Assange is treated will be of great significance to the practice of journalism.”
On 23 May Julian Assange, was indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act in the USA for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents. Each charge 17 carries a maximum 10-year sentence. With the 18thcharge of computer hacking he could face a 175-year sentence.
In reaction to the news that Julian Assange has been charged with violating the US Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said on the 24thof May:
“The latest charges of violating the Espionage Act lodged by the US government raises severe press freedom fears in what amounts to an assault on the first amendment of the US constitution. Such a move poses a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists and their ability to protect their sources. It is the latest unacceptable act from an administration determined to treat journalists as enemies of the people.”
We agree with the NUJ’s words. Now they need to Act!
Julian Assange’s arrest led to worldwide protest from human rights organisations, UN bodies and organisations concerned with press freedom such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, reporters without Borders, ACLU, EFF, Human Rights Watch and others. However, in the UK, it was met with silence or token opposition by those organisations who should have responded with unequivocal and continuing opposition to his extradition. Large parts of the press responded with outright hostility to Assange and smears, mockery and indifference. With the new, unprecedented espionage charges, the press may be forced to reconsider that stance.
All journalists must now stand with Julian Assange.
Emboldened by its capture of Julian Assange, governments are already pursuing further attacks on journalists. French journalists who reported on leaked documents revealing France’s secret complicity in the war in Yemen, are now under threat. The journalists have refused to answer questions from the French anti-terror police and face possible gaol.
Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are to be punished for revelations such as
the Collateral Murder video showing the murder of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad – including two Reuters news staff; the Afghan and Iraq War Diaries; files on torture in Guantanamo and much more. They have changed public understanding of the brutal reality of US and UK wars.
Julian Assange is now in high-security Belmarsh prison, locked in his cell 23 hours a day – effectively solitary confinement. This follows his ‘arbitrary detention since 2010 by UK and Sweden since 2010. His health, liberty and life are in jeopardy. In the USA, whistleblower Chelsea Manning is again back in prison refusing to testify against Julian Assange.
This is no time for standing on the sidelines. The US Justice Department sought to draw a distinction between Assange and other journalists when they announced the Espionage charges. “The department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy and we thank you for it,” said John Demers, head of the department’s National Security Division. “It has not and never has been the department’s policy to target them for reporting. But Julian Assange is no journalist.”
He is. Julian Assange is famous throughout the world as a multi award journalist and publisher.
We ask you to use all means at your disposal to pressurise the UK government to refuse to extradite Assange to the US. These include:
- Study the case more and correct the smears being written in the press
- Make regular public statements condemning the action taken against Mr Assange and the threat this poses to journalism
- Publicise and support actions being taken, and events being held to protest against the threat of extradition of Julian Assange to the US. It would be very good to see an NUJ banner on events
- Invite speakers from the Julian Assange Defence Committee to events and also to speak to your NUJ branches
- Asking NUJ branches to pass a motion on this issue and pressurising the NUJ leadership to act on this issue
- Lobbying any MPs sympathetic to the cause of press freedom about this case
Stay informed of our JADC Solidarity Campaign by:
Send an e-mail to JADC@protonmail.chto joining our e-mail list
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Julian Assange Defence Committee,
Grassroots Solidarity for the WikiLeaks Publisher