‘Dark Day for Press Freedom’: Chomsky, Ellsberg, Others Slam Assange Extradition

As supporters of Julian Assange held a news conference Friday at the United Kingdom’s consulate in New York to demand freedom for the jailed WikiLeaks founder, a trio of leading leftist figures decried the British government’s approval of the ailing Australian’s extradition to the United States.

In a statement published ahead of Friday’s press conference, the three chairs of the Assange Defense Committee — linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker — blasted U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel’s greenlighting of Assange’s transfer to the U.S. earlier in the day. Assange plans to appeal the decision.

“It’s a sad day for Western democracy. The U.K.’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him — the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest — is an abomination,” the trio said, referring to an alleged 2017 CIA scheme to kidnap or kill the WikiLeaks founder.

“We expect the world’s most despised autocrats to persecute journalists, publishers, and whistleblowers. We expect totalitarian regimes to gaslight their people and crack down on those who challenge the government,” they continued. “Shouldn’t we expect Western democracies to behave better?”

The statement continued:

The U.S. government argues that its venerated Constitution does not protect journalism the government dislikes, and that publishing truthful information in the public interest is a subversive, criminal act.

This argument is a threat not only to journalism, but to democracy itself. The U.K. has shown its complicity in this farce, by agreeing to extradite a foreigner based on politically motivated charges that collapse under the slightest scrutiny.

Speakers at Friday’s event in New York included Assange’s father and progressive German parliamentarian Sevim Dağdelen, who said that “today is a dark day for press freedom, a dark day for human rights.”

“Julian Assange is a hero,” she added. “Every decent citizen and journalist is called to stand up.”