Truth under threat

Published February 22, 2024

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one must remember that the stakes involved transcend his individual fate. His case is a litmus test for free speech, press freedom and the public’s right to know. At the heart of the matter is the fear that Mr Assange’s extradition could end whistle-blowing as we know it, transforming the act of exposing wrongdoing into a crime such as espionage. He stands accused of facilitating the biggest release of classified information in US history, yet it must be recognised that he played the role of a publisher. The material released by WikiLeaks exposed potential war crimes by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. These revelations are undeniably in the public interest and highlight the crucial role of whistle-blowers and investigative journalism in holding the powerful to account. The argument against Mr Assange’s extradition is not merely in defence of press freedom; it makes a case to safeguard the means through which society uncovers the truth.

The UK government faces a critical decision. By deciding against Mr Assange’s extradition, it would send a powerful message in defence of freedom of expression and the essential role of journalism in democracy. Moreover, technical grounds exist, such as a provision in the US-UK extradition treaty that allows for no extradition in cases of a political nature. There are grave concerns about America’s motivations behind its pursuit of Mr Assange. It appears to want to set an example, warning others of the consequences of exposing government secrets. It is imperative for the UK to resist being complicit in this endeavour. Equally important is Mr Assange’s health, already compromised by years of confinement. Extradition to face a potentially disproportionate sentence puts his very life in danger. This is a moment for the UK to uphold free speech and defend the right to expose the truth without fear.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

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