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In Defense of Julian Assange and Free Speech

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures to supporters from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in May 2017. (Frank Augstein / AP)

If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now.

Citing his critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Germany, and following pressure from the U.S., Spanish and U.K. governments, the Ecuadorean government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange from communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone. As if ensuring his total isolation, the Ecuadorean government is also refusing to allow him to receive visitors. Despite two U.N. rulings describing his detention as unlawful and mandating his immediate release, Assange has been effectively imprisoned since he was first placed in isolation in Wandsworth prison in London in December 2010. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish case against him collapsed and was withdrawn, while the United States has stepped up efforts to prosecute him. His only “crime” is that of a true journalist—telling the world the truths that people have a right to know.

Under its previous president, the Ecuadorean government bravely stood against the bullying might of the United States and granted Assange political asylum as a political refugee. International law and the morality of human rights was on its side.

Today, under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators, another government in Ecuador justifies its gagging of Assange by stating that Assange’s behavior, through his messages on social media, put at risk good relations that Ecuador has with the U.K., the rest of the EU and other nations.

This censorious attack on free speech is not happening in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China; it is right in the heart of London. If the Ecuadorean government does not cease its unworthy action, it, too, will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech. If the EU and the U.K. continue to participate in the scandalous silencing of a true dissident in their midst, it will mean that free speech is indeed dying in Europe.

This is not just a matter of showing support and solidarity. We are appealing to all who care about basic human rights to call on the government of Ecuador to continue defending the rights of a courageous free speech activist, journalist and whistleblower.

We ask that his basic human rights be respected as an Ecuadorean citizen and internationally protected person and that he not be silenced or expelled.

If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us—regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.

We call on President Lenín Moreno to end the isolation of Julian Assange now.

List of signatories (in alphabetical order):

Pamela Anderson, actress and activist

Jacob Appelbaum, freelance journalist

Renata Avila, International Human Rights Lawyer

Sally Burch, British/Ecuadorean journalist

Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom 2012-16

Naomi Colvin, Courage Foundation

Noam Chomsky, linguist and political theorist

Brian Eno, musician

Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador and board member of The Centre for Investigative Journalism

Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun, Montserrat Monastery

Charles Glass, American-British author, journalist, broadcaster

Chris Hedges, journalist

Srećko Horvat, philosopher, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25)

Jean Michel Jarre, musician

John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Lauri Love, computer scientist and activist

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, presidential adviser

John Pilger, journalist and filmmaker

Angela Richter, theater director, Germany

Saskia Sassen, sociologist, Columbia University

Oliver Stone, filmmaker

Vaughan Smith, English journalist

Yanis Varoufakis, economist, former Greek finance minister

Natalia Viana, investigative journalist and co-director of Agencia Publica, Brazil

Ai Weiwei, artist

Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer and activist

Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Birkbeck Institute for Humanities

John Pilger
John Pilger is an Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker based in the United Kingdom since 1962. A renowned war reporter, filmmaker and author, he is one of two people to win British journalism’s…
John Pilger

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