If you want to find out the government’s commitment to press freedom go know further than their web site at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lucy-frazers-speech-at-the-enders-media-telecoms-conference. It reports a speech by Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) who earlier this year told a major conference that growing Press Freedom was a priority of the UK government.
‘If we want a thriving media sector in the future – our focus has to be on a free press and a press that is free to grow,’ she said. ‘As a government we are taking steps to increase press freedoms and make sure journalists can do their jobs effectively.’
She was addressing the Enders Media & Telecoms Conference in May, when she sketched out her blueprint for supporting the UK’s creative industries and safeguarding critical freedoms. Such a pity that she did not bother refer to the continued imprisonment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh high security prison who two months later ‘celebrated’ five years in the SE London prison as an example of how the government was supporting press freedom and the right to report.
Fast forward nearly six months to the recent appeal by Stella Assange who writes: Julian is reaching the end of the road in the British courts. He is now into his fifth year of imprisonment without conviction in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh prison. On the third of July, he spent his fifth birthday in a small isolated cell.
On June 6th, a single High Court judge rejected Julian’s application for permission to appeal. That means that the British appeal court will not have the opportunity to argue why he should not be extradited to the senior judiciary of the UK, and if that decision is confirmed in coming weeks or months by a panel of two separate High Court judges, Julian will not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court either and the Home Office will initiate his extradition. Julian will attempt to apply to the European Court of Human Rights, but that avenue is neither automatic nor assured.
The British Courts still have the opportunity to reverse course and do the right thing. The case is clear cut, this is a political persecution, Julian is the victim of a vengeful prosecution instigated by the same authorities that were plotting to kidnap and murder him. The charges re a fit up, because he cannot invoke a public interest defence. He is being used as a deterrent to bully reporters and citizens not to challenge corruption and abuse.
Those who wish to silence and imprison Julian for the rest of his life have contempt for what he stands for —our right to speak and know the truth and the agency of well-informed people to achieve reform and accountability.
Julian needs each and everyone of us to stand by him and push back. If you are a UK resident, come to the courts on the day of the public hearing,
If the US and UK want to hold the moral and political high ground on freedom of expression, dropping the case and letting Julian come home is the only way to achieve it.
Join the fight and stand up for Julian. Don’t stop until he is free and back home with us.
This show of solidarity keeps Julian’s spirits strong as he fights an epic battle for his life and for the future of our freedoms.
Just how much are the government’s assurances on press freedom and freedom of expression really worth!