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Press Freedom

Judges Named For Assange Appeal

The judges in Julian Assange’s two-day appeal hearing on July 9-10 are the same who granted Assange a rare victory last month:  his right to appeal the Home Office’s extradition order to the United States. Justices Jeremy Johnson and Victoria Sharp granted Assange the right to appeal on only two of nine requested grounds, but they are significant: 1) his extradition was incompatible with his free speech rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights; and 2) that he might be prejudiced because of his nationality (not being given 1st Amendment protection as a non-American).

Kansas Newspaper That Faced Illegal Police Raid Backs Reporter’s Shield Law

A newspaper in Kansas that was targeted in an illegal police raid endorsed legislation in the United States Senate that would establish a national reporter’s shield law.  Eric Meyer, associate dean of the College of Media at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and publisher of the Marion County Record, declared, “As last summer’s raid on the Marion County Record proved, freedom of expression faces unprecedented challenges from unscrupulous people willing to weaponize the justice system to bully and retaliate against those attempting to report truth.” “Existing remedies might be fine for huge media organizations, but community journalists and people like the students I used to teach at the University of Illinois shouldn’t have their rights be dependent on whether they can afford to hire massive legal teams.”

Victory For Assange, First Amendment, UK Court Grants Right To Appeal

On May 20, a two-judge panel of the High Court of England and Wales handed WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange a significant victory. Justice Jeremy Johnson and Dame Victoria Sharp granted him leave to appeal the U.K.’s extradition order on two grounds. The High Court will now schedule a hearing at which Assange will be allowed to argue that his rights to freedom of expression and to be free from discrimination based on his nationality would not be protected if he were extradited to the United States. In the U.K., the right to appeal is not automatic. While they didn’t rule on the merits of Assange’s claims, Johnson and Sharp determined that the two issues have sufficient legal merit to be reviewed by the High Court.

Something Changed In The Assange Case

In the normal run of things, if a very senior judge instructs you to give an assurance to their Court, it would probably not be wise to avoid giving the assurance, to devote a huge amount of text to trying to obscure the fact you have not given the assurance, and then to lecture the judge on why they were wrong to ask for the assurance in the first place. Most lawyers would probably advise against that course of conduct. But this did not deter the fearless James Lewis KC, back to lead for the United States prosecution against Julian Assange, eyes twinkling and his neat nautical facial hair having grown rather wilder, as though he had decided to assume a piratical air to match his reckless conduct of the case.

The Slow-Motion Execution Of Julian Assange Continues

The decision by the High Court in London to grant Julian Assange the right to appeal the order to extradite him to the United States may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. It does not mean Julian will elude extradition. It does not mean the court has ruled, as it should, that he is a journalist whose only “crime” was providing evidence of war crimes and lies by the U.S. government to the public. It does not mean he will be released from the high-security HMS Belmarsh prison where, as Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, after visiting Julian there, said he was undergoing a “slow-motion execution.”

Assange Wins Right To Appeal On First Amendment Issue

The High Court in London on Monday granted Julian Assange the right to appeal the order to extradite him to the United States on the grounds that the U.S. did not satisfy the court that it would allow Assange a First Amendment defense in a U.S. court. “We spent a lot of time listening to the United States putting lipstick on a pig, but the judges didn’t buy it,” Stella Assange told reporters outside the court building. “As a family we are relieved but how long can this go on? The United States should read the situation and drop the case now.” Assange has been imprisoned in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison for more than five years on remand pending the outcome of his extradition. 

What To Expect At Julian Assange’s Appeal Hearing On May 20

On Monday, May 20th, the UK High Court will decide whether Julian Assange will be allowed to appeal the decision allowing his extradition before the UK Courts. The High Court will first hear arguments from the defense and the prosecution regarding the “assurances” provided by the U.S. Julian Assange’s final appeal hearing was held on February 20th​ and 21st​ this year, upon which the judges made a ruling on March 26th​, provisionally allowing Julian Assange to appeal the decision to extradite him to the U.S., but only if the U.S. doesn’t provide sufficient assurances that he will not be sentenced to death and that he will be allowed to rely on the First Amendment that is, his right to free speech.

Lawsuit Succeeds In Lifting Gag Rules At Pittsburgh Jail

In a win for government accountability in Pennsylvania, the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have succeeded in lifting Allegheny County Jail rules that forbid employees from talking to the press or posting information on social media. As part of a settlement reached in the federal First Amendment lawsuit on April 23, the Pittsburgh jail has adopted new policies that affirm employees’ right to speak and to disclose wrongdoing at the jail. The policies also empower jail employees to speak out to the press on matters of public concern.

Unicorn Riot Nets Resounding Win For Press Freedom Against Oil Corporation

Saint Paul, MN — The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a ruling favoring Unicorn Riot on Monday, May 6, rejecting the oil company Energy Transfer LP’s attempt to obtain newsgathering materials through a subpoena, blunting a three-year legal pressure campaign. In April 2021, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline started trying to force Unicorn Riot to give out sensitive and privileged materials developed in the process of covering the controversial fracked oil pipeline and the massive, historic organized resistance against it. (See our full-length documentary, Black Snake Killaz [2017], DAPL category, and Standing Rock and DAPL content tags for dozens of original stories.)

Israel Shuts Down Al Jazeera Operations In The Country

Two days after the world commemorated Press Freedom day, Israel ordered the Al Jazeera media network to be shut down, calling it a “threat to national security” on Sunday, May 5. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet unanimously voted to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations almost a month after the Israeli parliament had passed legislation which had given the government the right to shut down any foreign media channel in the country in the name of protecting national security. Israel had earlier accused Al Jazeera of colluding with Hamas and had also claimed it participated in the October 7 attacks.

Media Freedom Faces Unprecedented Threats Globally

Journalists and independent media outlets are facing an unprecedented decline in press freedom and a rise of state repression all across the world, according to the annual report published by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. RSF claims that the physical security of journalists continues to be the main threat to press freedom, noting that over 100 Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israel in Palestine in the last seven months of war in Gaza. RSF’s World Press Freedom Index of 2024 notes with worry that in most of the countries, political authorities supposed to protect press freedom, have emerged as the primary threat and the world has seen a “worrying decline in respect for media autonomy.”

Call To Action For Julian Assange

Assange’s legal team has the right to challenge the credibility and validity of the U.S. assurances filed on February 24, 2024. The U.S. would then have a right to reply to Assange’s legal submissions to the court, which will hold a hearing on May 20, 2024, to determine whether or not to accept the U.S. assurances. If the court does, Assange can be put on a plane to the U.S. theoretically that day. If not Assange would be granted a full appeal against the Home Office’s 2022 order to extradite him. We are calling for a MAYDAY FOR JULIAN.  This is an action you can do from the comfort of your home. All we are asking is for you to make just 6 calls per week.

Assange Assurances: An Australian Response

Some members of the Australian legal, political and diplomatic community are troubled by a U.S. assurance that signals Julian Assange would be “potentially very greatly prejudiced” in a U.S. court, as British judges anticipated, given that foreign nationals who acted abroad do not have constitutional rights. Stating that Assange is able to “seek to rely” on such rights as the First Amendment, the assurance makes no mention of what is “long-settled” law, according to Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court USAID v. Open Society case of 2020. This and other precedents establish that he could be denied these rights.

US Government Rejects Australia’s Call To End Assange Case

Faced with a deadline set by the British High Court of Justice, the United States Embassy in London submitted “assurances” to potentially avoid an appeal in the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The assurances come days after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Australia government asked the U.S. to offer Assange, an Australian citizen, a “felony plea deal” that would allow him to return home. Instead of ending the case, the U.S. State Department provided a diplomatic note to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that contained assurances related to issues raised by Assange’s legal team and upheld by the High Court.

How Britain Would Be Obliged To Free Julian Assange

President Joe Biden’s remark on Wednesday that his administration is considering ending the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange appears based on a calculation that the U.S. could lose in court on Assange’s appeal against Britain’s order to extradite him. The High Court of England and Wales in its ruling last month has given the United States until Tuesday to assure Assange will not face the death penalty or the court would have no choice but to follow the law and free Assange. The two-judge panel also ruled the U.S. must provide a First Amendment guarantee equivalent to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
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