In a judgement issued on 6 June, a High Court in the UK has rejected the latest appeal by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange against an extradition order issued by the United States. The International and the European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) are appalled by the decision, which brings Assange closer to being extradited to the US where, if found guilty, he could spend the rest of his life in jail. The IFJ-EFJ renewed their call on the US government to close the case against Assange on the basis that it poses a grave threat to media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally.
Following the High Court judgement, Assange’s defence stated that they will appeal again to the same court against the US’s extradition order issued in June 2022. This will be the last legal action to be carried out in the UK courts as further appeals will not be possible at the domestic level. The next step for Assange’s lawyers could be to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
On 17 June 2022, the UK approved Assange’s extradition to the US to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed that the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists. If found guilty, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years.
IFJ President Dominique Pradalié said: “We are appalled by the High Court’s decision to reject Julian Assange’s latest appeal. If extradited to the United States, Assange faces a jail term of up to 175 years that will set a dangerous precedent for all journalists globally. The danger is that journalists may be obliged by governments from any country in the world to answer for information published in the public interest.”
“It is time for the British and the US governments to bring this grotesque persecution to an end. We renew our call for the US President to drop all charges against Assange and close the case. If Assange goes to jail, no journalist on earth will be safe,” concluded the IFJ President.
Following the UK’s decision to extradite Assange, together with its affiliate in Australia, the Media Entertainment and Audiovisual Alliance (MEAA), the IFJ called on the government to lobby for all charges against Assange to be dismissed.
In parallel, the IFJ launched a global campaign calling on the US government to close the case and asking all media unions and press freedom organisations to urge their governments to secure Assange’s release. The federation is gravely concerned about Assange’s health and the impact his continued detention has on media freedom and the rights of all journalists globally.
The IFJ and the EFJ co-signed an open letter together with EU lawmakers, Assange’s wife Stella and organisations defending press freedom and human rights, in which they call on the US President Joe Biden to pardon Assange.