Stop Criminalizing the Press !: Biden’s Persecution of Julian Assange

Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

One year after the insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021 in the United States, when former President Donald Trump incited thousands of his supporters to violently break into the Capitol with the intention of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential elections. , threats to democracy continue to center stage. As the Republican Party joins the Trump cult, progressive activists across the country are fighting to expand voting rights and ensure free and fair elections. One of the main bastions of democracy is freedom of the press. Sadly, with the ongoing persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Biden administration is leading the attack on journalism and empowering aspiring autocrats around the world.

Julian Assange is the founder and editor of Wikileaks, a pioneering website serving transparency. Wikileaks exposed the war crimes committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its torture practices at Guantanamo Bay and other abuses of power, by publishing thousands of secret US military and government documents that the mainstream news outlets in various parts of the world. The world – including the newspapers The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian – used as a basis for publishing reports that were later widely awarded. While fighting the US government’s attempt to extradite him on espionage and information hacking charges, Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh high-security prison, which has been described as the “British version of London’s prison. Guantanamo Bay ”. If extradited, the Wikileaks founder could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

This Wednesday, Julian Assange was held in Belmarsh for 1,000 days and a group of activists gathered in front of the prison to commemorate the date and demand his release. Before being held in Belmarsh, Assange spent almost seven years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as a political asylee.

Among the protesters was Stella Moris, Assange’s partner and mother of his two minor children. As part of his campaign to free Assange, Moris attended the November climate change summit in Glasgow. On that occasion he told Democracy Now !: “All of this has really started to affect him. Every day is a fight for him. There is no end in sight. Is [situación] it can go on like this for years ”.

Stella Moris announced the protest vigil for Assange’s 1,000 days incarceration in a tweet that includes an audio recording allegedly made inside the Belmarsh prison cell where Assange is being held. In this recording, the screams of inmates, the barking of guard dogs and the incessant sound of metal doors opening and closing paint a stark picture of the harsh conditions inside Belmarsh.

In her conversation with Democracy Now !, Stella Moris added: “The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has said that Julian is being psychologically tortured. His physical health has deteriorated greatly. They are killing him. If he dies, it is because he was killed. They are torturing him to death ”.

Stella Moris recently revealed that Julian Assange suffered a minor stroke in prison on October 27, the first day of his appeal hearing before the High Court in London. That court ultimately ruled in favor of the US government so that Assange can be extradited. Assange is currently seeking permission from the same court to appeal the ruling to the UK Supreme Court.

Threats to journalists and media workers around the world have been on the rise. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that, as of December 8, 24 journalists had been killed in the line of duty in 2021 and another eight deaths are believed to be related to journalistic work. Also, 293 journalists were jailed during 2021, which is a record number.

On December 9, President Joe Biden inaugurated the “Summit for Democracy”, organized by the White House, with the following words: “Free and independent media. That is the basis of democracy. This is how the population is kept informed and how governments are accountable for their actions. All over the world, freedom of the press is under threat ”.

President Biden’s words are true, but they ring hollow, as his Justice Department seeks to imprison Julian Assange for life, simply for performing the functions of the free press that Biden praises.

Referring to journalists María Ressa, from the Philippines, and Dmitry Muratov, from Russia, who were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for the courageous reports they carried out while under threat from their governments, the deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJRobert Mahoney said on December 10: “On the same day that journalists are honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, a UK court rules that the United States can extradite Julian Assange, a ruling that seriously damages journalism. […] The stubborn US Justice Department prosecution of WikiLeaks founder has set a damaging legal precedent for the press […]. This week, at its Summit for Democracy, the Biden Administration pledged to support journalism. To do this, it could begin by eliminating the threat that investigative journalists from all over the world now face of being tried under the Espionage Act. “

A coalition of 24 international organizations – including Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom of the Press Foundation, PEN America and Reporters Without Borders – urged the Biden government to stop the trial against Assange, stating that he “threatens the freedom of the press because much of the conduct described in the indictment is the conduct of many journalists in their day-to-day lives, and the one they must adopt in order to do the work that citizens need them to do ”.

Democracy is under attack. President Biden must deliver on his promise to support press freedom, which is needed more than ever today, and abandon the persecution of Julian Assange.

© 2022 Amy Goodman

Spanish translation of the original column in English. Edition: Democracy Now! in Spanish,

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now !, an international newscast that airs daily on more than 800 radio and television stations in English and more than 450 in Spanish. She is co-author of the book “Those who fight against the system: Ordinary heroes in extraordinary times in the United States”, edited by Le Monde Diplomatique Cono Sur.

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Stop Criminalizing the Press !: Biden’s Persecution of Julian Assange