The five major media outlets that collaborated with WikiLeaks in 2010 to publish explosive stories based on confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department sent a letter calling on the Biden administration to drop all charges against Julian Assange, who has been languishing in a high-security London prison for more than three years in connection with his publication of classified documents.
Editors and publishers of the five media organizations that first partnered with Julian Assange – The Guardian, Le Monde, El País, Der Spiegel and The New York Times – have renewed their call for his immediate release.
n international coalition of journalists, editors, and publishers demanded Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be immediately released from a UK jail and that all charges against him be dropped.
Fifteen representatives of journalist and publishers’ unions and organizations from six countries gathered in Geneva for the ‘call to free Julian Assange in the name of press freedom’
The petitioners also called on Swiss authorities, who have said they have worked to protect Assange, to facilitate his release by offering him a safe haven from further prosecution in Switzerland.
The call came after the British government last week approved Assange’s extradition to the United States, to the dismay of his supporters and free press campaigners.
Assange, 50, has said he will appeal against the decision.
He is wanted to face trial for violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010, and could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty.
The Assange case has become a cause celebre for media freedom and his supporters accuse Washington of trying to muzzle reporting of legitimate security concerns.
Wednesday’s event slammed the British decision as a “flagrant violation of human rights and a showing of total contempt for freedom of the press”.
Pierre Ruetschi, the head of the Swiss Press Club hosting the event, warned that “democracy is being taken hostage”.
“This attempt at criminalizing journalism is a serious threat.”
Tim Dawson, of the National Union of Journalists of Britain and Ireland, agreed.
“If Julian Assange can be threatened with prosecution as a spy, what might that mean for other journalists?” he said.
Assange has been held on remand at a top-security jail in southeast London since 2019 for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden.
Before that he spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden.
The Australian was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.
Here are some of the key revelations made public by Assange:
- The Saudi King pressed for a U.S. attack on Iran
King Abdullah, the aging ruler of Saudi Arabia, has repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran—”cut off the head of the snake”—and destroy its nuclear facilities. It’s not just Saudi Arabia, though. According to the cables, leaders in Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain have also called for military action against Iran.
- Iran may have North Korean missiles
The Islamic nation reportedly obtained missiles from North Korea capable of attacking Russia and Western Europe. Iran is said to have 19 North Korean BM-25 missiles, and officials warn the rockets might give Tehran “the building blocks” to build larger, long-range missiles on its own.
- The U.S. is in a nuclear standoff with Pakistan
The U.S. has been trying to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor for three years, fearing it could end up being used in a nuclear device. Pakistan has so far refused to grant access, as its officials worry that local media would portray the move “as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”
- The U.S. has been secretly bombing Yemen
The U.S. has launched covert missile attacks on terrorist targets in Yemen. But in a meeting with Gen. David Petraeus, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh says “we’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” These air strikes killed several civilians, says Justin Elliott at Salon, and this revelation may yet “spark a backlash against Saleh.”
- China has been cyber-attacking Google, the Dalai Lama
The cables confirm that Chinese cybe-terrorists were behind an intrusion into Google’s computer systems last year. The attack prompted Google to withdraw from the country in March 2010. Chinese hackers have also broken into the U.S. government, businesses, and even the personal computer of the Dalai Lama, according to the leaked cables.
- Hillary Clinton has reportedly ‘spied’ on the U.N.
The secretary of state issued a classified directive ordering U.S. diplomats to gather information on the leadership of the United Nations, including credit card numbers, DNA, fingerprints, and iris scans. Officials targeted included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and representatives from China, Russia, France, and the U.K. This may violate international treaties, suggests The Guardian.
- Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin have a special relationship
The friendship between the Italian and Russian prime ministers goes even deeper than previously thought, reports The Guardian. Cables detail the exchange of “lavish gifts,” deals over lucrative energy contracts, and “the use by Berlusconi of a ‘shadowy’ Russian-speaking Italian go-between.”
- Afghanistan VP carried $52 million in traveling money
When Ahmed Zia Massoud, Afghanistan’s vice president, made a trip to the United Arab Emirates last year, he was discovered to be in possession of $52 million in cash. In a cable, the American Embassy in Kabul confirmed Massoud was allowed to keep this “significant amount” without explaining why or how he came to be carrying it. Massoud denies carrying the cash.
- The U.S. bartered with Guantanamo prisoners
The State Department was so desperate to empty Guantanamo Bay that it attempted to barter with various countries to take prisoners. Slovenia was told it might receive a visit from President Barack Obama if it accepted detainees, and the island nation of Kiribati was offered millions of dollars in incentives to accept Chinese Muslim prisoners. American diplomats suggested taking in prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
- World leaders aren’t exactly treated with deference
The cables include a number of “diplo-disses,” says Emily Rauhala at Time. Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s dictator, is labeled a “flabby old chap” by one source. Berlusconi is “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader.” Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe shows “deep ignorance on economic issues,” and the American embassy in Moscow refers to President Dmitry Medvedev playing “Robin to Putin’s Batman.”