Assange extradition: a dangerous precedent?

The High Court in London has overturned the extradition ban on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Whether the whistleblower will really be extradited to the US has not yet been decided, however, as his lawyers have announced their intention to appeal. While some media fear that such action against a journalist could set a negative precedent, others insist that the ruling must be accepted.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Undemocratic deterrence

If Assange is extradited, assumptions will be made that could weaken democracy, The Irish Times warns:

“One is the assertion that the US can punish anyone, anywhere in the world who is involved in disclosing information it wants to keep secret. Assange is not American; he never signed up to any legal commitment to keep America's secrets. If he can be extradited, why not the editors of the Guardian and Der Spiegel and their reporters who worked on the story? The other is that Assange is not charged only with putting the lives of informants at risk by disclosing their names. He is charged with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to obtain classified information. ... News is what somebody in power would prefer to keep secret. The rest is PR - and the worst kind is military PR.”

Eco - Economia Online (PT) /

A threat to journalism

A delicate precedent looms for Eco:

“The Wikileaks boss probably committed some crimes in the last ten years, but that has nothing to do with the current case. The extradition request was made on the basis of the [US] Espionage Act, which is one of the least democratic laws in the free world. The charge against him is publishing classified information. But when you ban the publication of secrets, you encourage secrecy and abuse of power because you prevent transparency and accountability. If the White House is successful in this case, it could be emboldened to prosecute all journalists who work with classified information.”

Mediapart (FR) /

The destruction campaign continues

The British High Court's decision puts media freedom at risk worldwide, warn Baltasar Garzón and Aitor Martínez of Assange's legal team in a blog post for Mediapart:

“In accepting to hand over a journalist for publishing information of global interest denouncing war crimes, corruption and intelligence misconduct, the High Court is putting the entire media community in the crosshairs of the US administration. ... The aim of the US has never been to dispense justice, but to destroy an enemy and teach a definitive lesson to those who dare to 'violate' the sacred omertá rule of the intelligence services of the world's leading power. Now they are once again using all their power to silence all those who rebel against them.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Whistleblower should be allowed to stay

Extraditing Assange would be wrong, argues law professor Andrew Tettenborn in The Spectator:

“Whatever the need for international cooperation against terrorism, murder and fraud, this applies much less, if at all, to sedition and anti-state espionage. ... Put bluntly, however special our relationship with the US is, there is no reason we should necessarily help it enforce its espionage laws ... This is especially true since the acts alleged against Assange took place outside the US. ... For people like Julian Assange, the decent thing is to say not only that he can stay here as long as he behaves reasonably, but also that even if we do eject him we will never send him back to a country that wishes to punish him for a state crime.”

Badische Zeitung (DE) /

Even Assange is not above the law

The argument that this is a case of an investigative journalist being made a political prisoner is oversimplified, the Badische Zeitung writes:

“Assange's own actions have repeatedly raised doubts about his own motives, for example when emails from the ranks of the Democratic Party were published on Wikileaks during the 2016 US election campaign and damaged the Clinton campaign, and were apparently linked to state-controlled Russian hacker attacks. One must also bear in mind that the furore that is now spreading is not the result of some random tribunal ruling on his extradition, but of that of a proper British court. Even Mr Assange is not above the law.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Enemies of democracy delighted

Many defenders of the whistleblower have double standards, La Stampa points out:

“The main damage wreaked by Wikileaks is that it spread a sense of disgust vis-à-vis those who govern democracies - much to the delight of the enemies of democracy. And it's no coincidence that the most passionate defence of Assange came from the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, who evoked 'Anglo-Saxon cannibalism'. As if dozens of journalists had not fled Russia because of persecution, as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov has made amply clear.”