On Jan. 4, 2021, a London magistrate will hand down her decision on whether to extradite WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange – an Australian citizen – to the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted Assange under the Espionage Act for WikiLeaks’ historic publications in 2010 about U.S. crimes and corruption during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange is a journalist and has won over a dozen media awards. If this prosecution is successful, Assange faces life in prison; press freedom under the First Amendment will be weakened; and a deep chill will fall on factual, public-interest journalism – the kind of journalism democracy depends on.
Assange has been imprisoned in solitary confinement in the United Kingdom’s version of Guantanamo for 19 months now. Before that, he was in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he’d received asylum from political persecution. This asylum became a seven-year siege, and an investigator from the UN has determined that this arbitrary detention of Assange constituted psychological torture.
Despite media smears (followed by media blackout) about Assange, global support for him is growing. A decade of character attacks (rape allegations, rumors he behaved badly in the embassy, accusations of Russian collusion and election meddling, claims that WikiLeaks’ publications caused harm) have all been disproven now. What we need now are more Americans – and more American media – speaking up against this attack on the First Amendment by our government and calling for the charges against Assange to be dropped.