THIS refers to the news ‘UK allows Assange’s extradition to America’ (June 18). After the courts in the United Kingdom had cleared the path for the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, the British home secretary then approved the extradition of the man who exposed the world power, especially the US.

Assange, currently in British prison, can be extradited to the US, where he is wanted on 18 counts, including espionage, after the WikiLeaks disclosure of several US military and diplomatic cables, which, according to Washington, ‘put lives in danger’.

This decision is a blow to all those who believe in press freedom. The WikiLeaks documents related to Iraq and Afghan wars, which were published by almost all media houses globally, exposed state crimes and cover-ups. Any responsible, democratic government should have taken action against those who committed the crimes.

Ironically, instead, the US government went after the whistleblower, accusing him of conspiring to hack into defence databases to get sensitive unclassified information.

No doubt, if extradited and convicted, Assange’s life will be at risk, setting a bad precedent for press freedom and investigative journalism, and raising questions about the protection the First Amendment offers in terms of freedom to expression.

It is ironic that the Biden administration, which convened a global conference, Summit for Democracy, only last year and emphasised the role of a free press, is following Donald Trump’s policies in pursuing cases against Assange.

Simply put, if the US and the UK, among the world’s oldest democracies, are serious about their proclaimed commitment to press freedom, they should take steps to set Assange free.

The ordeal the so-called ‘free world’ has put this man in for exposing serious and gruesome abuses of power has taken away years from his life and has affected his overall health. This should not go on forever.

Imdad Hussain Lashari
Kandhkot

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2022

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