UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed an order to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces up to 175 years in prison on charges linked to Wikileaks’ publication of information in the public interest. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this decision, which represents a failure by the UK government to protect press freedom and will have dangerous implications for journalism around the world.
On June 17, following nearly three years of extradition proceedings in the UK courts, Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an order approving Assange’s extradition to the United States. A Home Office spokesperson said that the “UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange.” Patel’s predecessor, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, had previously greenlighted the US extradition request in July 2019, opening it for court consideration.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Home Secretary’s shameful decision to order the extradition of Julian Assange, which marks yet another failure by the UK government to protect press freedom and will have dangerous implications for journalism in this country and around the world. We hope that the UK courts will take a stand for press freedom where the government has failed, by protecting Assange and ensuring his release rather than his extradition. We will continue to monitor proceedings in this case and campaign to free Assange as long as it takes,” said RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent.
In May, RSF delivered a petition of nearly 64,000 signatures to the Home Office and to six British embassies around the world calling on Patel to reject the extradition order and act in the interest of press freedom and journalism by ensuring Assange’s release.
RSF also led 19 press freedom, free expression, and journalists’ organizations in a joint call on the Home Secretary to reject the extradition request. The groups said that Assange’s prosecution “would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.” Despite a request for a meeting, the letter was left unanswered by the Home Office.
Assange has the right to appeal the decision within 14 days; his wife Stella Assange and Wikileaks have already stated that an appeal will be pursued. In the meantime, Assange remains detained at high-security Belmarsh prison, where his mental and physical health remains at risk.