On May 2, 2019, Assange threw down the gauntlet by telling a British judge that he plans on fighting extradition requests from the United States. He is due to appear in court again on May 30, in what is expected to be a drawn-out legal battle.
Assange was originally charged for conspiring with Chelsea Manning to break into a government computer, which comes with a maximum prison of 5.5 years if he is convicted. When asked if he would turn himself in to U.S. authorities, Assange told Judge, “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that’s won many, many awards and affected many people.”
The Wikileaks founder’s court appearance came one day after he received a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012. Assange’s arrest has received praise from establishment politicians from the neoliberal to the neoconservative side of the spectrum. This just goes to show how protected and entitled politicians think they are when it comes to dealing with journalists such as Assange.
Say what you want about Assange’s motives, but he has done a fantastic job in exposing legacy institutions and putting the political class on its feet over the past decade. In days when journalism has been reduced to blindly repeating establishment talking points and advancing narratives that perpetuate that status quo “politics as usual,” daring journalists like Assange are a must.
Punishing people like Assange with jail time sets a dangerous precedent. Real journalism involves telling the truth. Some times that truth gravely inconveniences political elites and their agenda. For that reason, they will try to muzzle it as much as possible.
Putting the clamps on journalists because their findings put “national security,” and “national interests,” at risk is the height of statism. What these government apologists are really telling journalists is to not cover anything meaningful and stick to reporting on mundane news. On the other hand, establishment-approved journalists are given free rein to cover whatever pleases them thanks to the privileges bestowed upon them by legacy institutions.
True accountability involves doing hard-hitting journalism that ruffles feathers of the even the most sacred sectors of the political class. If this is banned, press freedom is bound to deteriorate.