USA: RSF launches DC advocacy week and mobile rally to #FreeAssange
With the possibility of extradition to the United States now imminent for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a week of advocacy meetings in Washington, DC and a mobile rally to call for his urgent release.
RSF has organized a truck to drive through Washington, DC on July 17 to mobilize public support to join the call to #FreeAssange. With planned stops at the White House, the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Capitol building, and the Australian and UK embassies, the truck will display messaging highlighting the danger Assange’s extradition and prosecution would pose to journalism and the public’s right to know.
The truck will also display a clip from the Collateral Murder video made public through WikiLeaks, exposing an air-to-ground attack by a US military Apache helicopter in a Baghdad suburb, which killed at least a dozen civilians, including two Reuters journalists. This video will remind Washington that Assange is being prosecuted for publishing information of vital public interest, which informed journalism around the world.
“With the possibility of Julian Assange’s extradition now imminent, we are ringing alarm bells. Despite the 12 years of targeting he has already endured, Assange’s fate is not inevitable. US policymakers still have the power and the opportunity to make a difference in this case and take a stand for the protection of journalism and press freedom. Our call on the Biden administration is more urgent than ever before: drop the charges, close this case, and free Assange!
This event will kick off a week of intensive advocacy as Director of Campaigns Rebecca Vincent joins RSF’s US team for meetings with lawmakers, government officials, and other stakeholders to raise alarm and secure action in this urgent matter. The campaign to #FreeAssange is becoming increasingly urgent with the possibility of his extradition pending only one final step in the UK courts.
“RSF is taking action to make our message as loud as possible: Julian Assange should not be prosecuted for publishing information in the public interest, and he should not spend another day in prison in the US or anywhere. The Biden administration should lead by example in the global defense of press freedom by closing this case and allowing for Assange’s release without further delay.
If extradited to the US, Assange would face up to 175 years in prison under 18 counts connected to WikiLeaks’ publication in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents, including evidence of war crimes and human rights violations. He would be the first publisher prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defense. This would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world, and would have a profound chilling effect on public interest reporting.
The United States is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.