The UK Assange hearing – which will decide whether there are grounds for Assange to stand trial in the USA – should reach a conclusion on 4 January. The verdict will have major ramifications for free speech and media freedom. We speak to Assange’s partner about it
As it stands the case is unprecedented. No publisher has ever been tried under the Espionage Act, which itself was essentially created for spies imparting official secrets either for profit or otherwise. This is perhaps a direct contradiction of rulings of the courts in the UK. In December 2017, the UK’s information tribunal recognised WikiLeaks as a media organisation, in direct contradiction to the view of the US State Department. Australia’s media union, the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, also presented an honorary member card to Assange’s Melbourne-based lawyer.
If Assange is extradited and tried the case will impact journalists and the media “for years to come”, says Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“It feels like many in the media do not see the implications of this case as something that will possibly affect them,” she told Index. “This case will have ramifications on the climates for journalism and press freedom internationally for years to come.”
“This is the first time we have seen the US government prosecute anybody for publishing leaked information. If they are successful, they will not stop with Assange and WikiLeaks. This could be applied, in theory, to any media outlet.”