Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has “firmly opposed” the ongoing extradition attempt by the United States administration in the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. In a petition to be submitted to the United Kingdom authorities, RSF has called on the government to not comply with the US demands of extradition. The petition, which expects to get over 100,000 signatures, will be submitted on the day of Assange’s next extradition hearing scheduled for September 7.
The petition also states that the proceedings against Assange could set “a dangerous precedent for all journalists.” It argues that the push by the US administration of Donald Trump to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act is “retaliation” for the publishing of leaked documents which revealed US war crimes. The petition also asserts that the publication of the documents, leaked by Chelsea Manning, “was clearly in the public interest, and not an act of espionage.”
“Every day, news organizations rely on and publish classified information to serve the public interest. If the legal persecution of Assange continues, investigative journalism and press freedom will be the victims,” reads the petition. It also asks the government “to prioritize the principles of freedom of expression and the defense of journalism.”
The petition cites reports on Assange’s deteriorating health, calling on the British government to “act in accordance with UK law and the country’s international human rights obligations” when dealing with Assange’s case. RSF cited the report by UN special rapporteur Nils Melzer, which called Assange’s condition indicative of degrading treatment, and even psychological torture.
Assange is currently facing an extradition trial at the request of the Trump administration. If extradited, he could stand trial on 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act, carrying a total maximum prison sentence of 175 years. Assange is also likely to face a second set of indictments and another extradition trial after the US recently expanded the scope of his existing charges.
Recently, a group of 169 judges, legal professionals, scholars and associations from around the world also penned a similar petition to the UK prime minister and other members of his cabinet, raising concerns of torture and degrading treatment against Assange, the possible illegality of his extradition, infringement on his rights as a defendant, and the attack on press freedoms.
Sign the petition of Reporters Without Borders here.