Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 48 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London, England. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

'Profound' Threat to Press Freedom Looms as Ecuador Prepares to Hand Assange Over to UK

"If Ecuador expels Assange from its London embassy, it's essential the U.K. not become party to any U.S. effort to prosecute him for merely publishing classified information the same way journalists regularly do."

Jake Johnson

Amid new reports that Ecuador is preparing to withdraw asylum protections from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and hand him over to British authorities within the next few weeks, journalists are raising alarm at the serious threats to press freedom such a move could spawn, given that the U.K. may decide to extradite Assange to the United States—where he could face "prosecution for the act of publishing documents."

"The Obama administration was eager to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, but ultimately concluded that there was no way to do so without either also prosecuting newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian which published the same documents," notes The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald, who reported on Saturday that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is "close to finalizing" a deal to eject Assange from Ecuador's London embassy, where he has been living since 2012.

However, top Trump administration officials are not at all concerned about the dangerous precedents prosecuting Assange could set, Greenwald notes, citing a "deranged" speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he declared "we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us."

"When it comes to press freedom threats," Greenwald argues, the very real possibility that Trump could attempt to prosecute Assange "would not be in the same universe as name-calling tweets by Trump directed at various TV personalities."

"It should not be this difficult for journalists to set aside their personal emotions about Assange to recognize the profound dangers—not just to press freedoms but to themselves—if the U.S. government succeeds in keeping Assange imprisoned for years to come, all due to its attempts to prosecute him for publishing classified or stolen documents," Greenwald concludes. That seems the highly likely scenario once Ecuador hands over Assange to the U.K."

In response to Greenwald's reporting, many journalists echoed the sentiment that, whatever one feels about Assange, any true defender of press freedom should denounce efforts by the Trump administration to prosecute him for "merely publishing classified information the same way journalists regularly do."

Writing for Consortium News, Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi—who has worked on documents released by WikiLeaks for years, noted: "Like its work or not, WikiLeaks is an independent media organization that doesn’t have to rely on traditional media to publish its scoops. Indeed it was founded to bypass the legal qualms traditional media may have about publishing classified information."

"Thanks to WikiLeaks, it has been possible to reveal the true face of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq (Afghan War Logs, Iraq War Logs Files, and Collateral Murder), the identities of Guantanamo detainees (Gitmo Files), the scandals and embarrassing diplomatic deals contained in 251,287 U.S. diplomacy cables, such as pressure from the U.S. to neutralize Italian prosecutors investigating the extraordinary rendition of the Milan cleric, Abu Omar (Cablegate)," Maurizi observes.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo