Posted by Richard Willett - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 29 June 2024

Until Julian Assange Is Pardoned, Press Freedom Remains at Risk

Without ever having a chance to vindicate his right to freedom of the press, being incarcerated for 14 years (in asylum and prison), dealing with his health failing, and being denied the companionship of his wife and two young sons, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pled guilty on Wednesday to a single felony count of illegally conspiring to obtain and disclose U.S. national defense secrets. Under the deal’s terms, he was sentenced to the five years already served in prison in the United Kingdom and allowed to immediately return to Australia.

According to an account in The Australian, U.S. District Court Judge Ramona Manglona asked Assange what he had done to violate the law. Assange replied, “Working as a journalist, I encouraged my source to provide information that was said to be classified.” He added that “I believed the First Amendment protected that activity, but I accept that it was a violation of the espionage statute. The First Amendment was in contradiction with the Espionage Act, but I accept that it would be difficult to win such a case given all these circumstances.” Outside the courthouse, Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack reiterated his client’s belief that “there should be First Amendment protection for [his] conduct, but … as written, the Espionage Act does not have a defense for the First Amendment.”

It will now be left to another day for the U.S. courts to rigorously test the Espionage Act against the First Amendment. For now, it must be said that Assange deserves his freedom and our deepest gratitude for the immense sacrifices he has made in the name of defending the right of all journalists to expose government wrongdoing and war crimes. He also deserves to be pardoned by President Joe Biden.

In stark contrast, the U.S. government deserves our condemnation for prosecuting Assange in the first place, for seeking his extradition from the United Kingdom, for refusing to accept the initial decision of the U.K. judge who denied extradition on humanitarian grounds, and for making a travesty of the U.S. Constitution by arguing that neither a U.S. citizen nor a foreign citizen is entitled to rely on the First Amendment for publishing national defense information obtained from whistleblowers.

The United States government’s cruel and vindictive response was a direct result of its inability to force the U.K. to extradite Assange to stand trial in the U.S. on 17 charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Instead, on May 20, in a surprising exercise of judicial independence, the U.K. High Court granted Assange permission to appeal his extradition order on the grounds that the United States had failed to adequately assure the U.K. that Assange’s right to freedom of expression would be protected if he were forced to stand trial in the U.S.

That ruling was a major victory for Assange and for the cause of press freedom. It opened the door to finally allowing Assange the full and open opportunity to argue that he should not be turned over to the U.S. because the indictment violated his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 provides that “Everyone has the right to free expression,” including “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Read More: Until Julian Assange Is Pardoned, Press Freedom Remains at Risk

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