Journalism is criminalised

The decision of the British High Court to grant the extradition of Julain Assange to America criminalises journalism, and is a blow to human rights. The Court granted a US government appeal against an earlier court decision to refuse extradition.

This is a victory for the world’s bully, the US government. It’s not just about Assange. This means anyone who displeases the US government is at risk from their snatch squads, wherever in the world they are.

Assange performed a huge service to humanity by exposing US forces slaughtering civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ‘Collateral Damage’ video he obtained showed US troops gunning down 10 civilians and two journalists. That is why he is being persecuted.

In January, a British court had refused extradition because Assange is at risk of suicide. His legal team established that. An Act of 2003 gives judges the “power to protect the mentally disordered from extradition where their mental disorder is such that extradition to a foreign state is ‘oppressive’.” Assange suffers depression and an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The US Government’s lawyers accused Assange of ‘concealing information’. An affidavit from human rights solicitor Gareth Pierse explained this was to protect his partner and their two sons.

The US Government has promised he will not be held in solitary in a maximum security prison. This is worthless, because its lawyers add “in the event that, after entry of this assurance, he was to commit any future act that then meant he met the test for such designation (being held in solitary confinement in a high-security prison – A McC).”

The US has promised Assange can serve his sentence in his native Australia. The US has a history of reneging on such promises. A Spanish court permitted the extradition of David Mendoza to the US, on that basis he could be returned to Spain to serve his sentence. With Mendoza in a US prison, the Department of Justice refused to return him to Spain. He was eventually returned – after six years of diplomatic arguments.

US administrations have targeted Assange for over 10 years. The Trump administration discussed kidnapping him from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had sought asylum, or murdering him there.

The Biden administration has adopted a different style to Trump. It has delivered the same barbaric determination to extradite Assange, and criminalise journalism.

That is why protest is so important. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) immediately condemned the extradition decision. Within a couple of hours of the decision being announced, members of the Derry North West Ireland Branch of the NUJ held a small protest in Derry City Centre. The Belfast NUJ is planning a protest at City Hall. Other branches across the union are planning to do so. The wider trade union movement must give what support it can. So must all who value free speech, and want to stop the rich and powerful hiding their crimes.

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