The press freedom organization, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed its excitement over the decision January 4, 2021 of a UK District Judge, Vanessa Baraister to block the United States’ attempt to extradite Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, but disappointed that the court failed take a stand for press freedom and journalistic protections.
Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns of RSF in an email circulated to media across the world says while the group is immensely relieved that Assange won’t be extradited to the US to face trial, it is extremely disappointed that the court failed to take a stand for press freedom and journalistic protections.
“We disagree with the judge’s assessment that the case was not politically motivated and was not centered on journalism and free speech. This decision leaves the door open for further similar prosecutions and will have a chilling effect on national security reporting around the world if the root issues are not addressed,” she wrote.
The US government has been after Assange on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud Abuse Act. The RSF contends that while the judge decided against Assange’s extradition on the grounds of his serious mental health issues and the conditions he would face in detention in the US, the judge’s decision was heavily in favour of the prosecution’s arguments and dismissive of the defence.
Assange remains in detention on remand in high-security Belmarsh prison, pending the judge’s consideration of his bail application on January 6, 2021.
The US government has indicated its decision to appeal the extradition decision.