Maga Republican and fierce Trump supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene and leftwing Democratic firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have found common ground in freeing Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The pair are among 16 members of the US Congress who have written directly to president Joe Biden urging the United States to drop its extradition attempts against Assange and halt any prosecutorial proceedings immediately.
The group warns continuing the pursuit of Assange risks America’s bilateral relationship with Australia.
“It is the duty of journalists to seek out sources, including documentary evidence, in order to report to the public on the activities of the government,” the letter to Biden, first reported by Nine newspapers, states.
“The United States must not pursue an unnecessary prosecution that risks criminalising common journalistic practices and thus chilling the work of the free press. We urge you to ensure that this case be brought to a close in as timely a manner as possible.”
Assange remains in Belmarsh prison in London as he fights a US attempt to extradite him to face charges – including under the Espionage Act. The charges are in connection with the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables, in 2010 and 2011.
In September, a cross-party delegation of Australian MPs, which included former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, teal independent Monique Ryan, Greens senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson, conservative Alex Antic and Labor’s Tony Zappia, travelled to America to meet with US representatives over Assange’s case.
The group hoped to gain support from American lawmakers in their bid to have the pursuit of Assange dropped ahead of Anthony Albanese’s official visit to Washington.
Since coming to power, the Albanese government has been more forward than its predecessors in pushing for Assange’s freedom, but so far the Biden government has rebuffed the calls.
Albanese confirmed he raised Assange’s case again during his meeting with Biden at the White House last month, but Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, urged the Australian government to increase the pressure.
Shipton told Guardian Australia: “If this government can get back Cheng Lei from China, why is he so impotent when it comes to Julian and the USA?”
With Assange’s avenues for legal appeal against the US extradition diminishing, his supporters fear for his life.
Censorship is Out of Control: Stella Assange
During the Portugal Web Summit on Thursday, lawyer and human rights activist Stella Assange, the wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, asserted that the European Union (EU) imposes Internet regulations under the pretext of controlling misinformation.
"The EU loves this new era of misinformation because it allows them to regulate the Internet extensively," she said, adding that the institutes and programs created to combat misinformation are not genuinely effective.
"If there were any truth to their eagerness to stop false information, then they would be the biggest supporters of WikiLeaks and would promote the WikiLeaks model as the best possible journalism. But usually, those involved in all of this are the staunchest critics of WikiLeaks because they see it as a real threat," Stella pointed out.
In addition to emphasizing that technology companies do not want to be regulated, the lawyer recalled that misinformation problems will not be resolved because there are "revolving doors" between major corporations and government intelligence agencies.
To truly combat disinformation in the contemporary world, "you need people from human rights and journalism backgrounds," she said, warning about the existence of "an entire censorship industry" built through technology of which most people are unaware. Therefore, "censorship is out of control," Stella stressed.
The activist also highlighted the significant imbalance emerging due to intermediaries regulating information that reaches people because they deem certain data "dangerous."
"Obviously, technology plays a key role, and we need many leaders in this area to push it back," Stella said, recalling that Julian Assange created an innovation that democratized information and ended the monopoly held by corporate media.
"Who in their right mind would publish Chelsea Manning's leaks today, knowing what they've done to Julian?" Stella asked, referring to the founder of WikiLeaks, whom the United States accused of espionage and computer intrusion for exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between 2012 and 2019, Assange was sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Subsequently, when Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno (2017-2021) revoked his political asylum, Assange was arrested and sent to the high-security prison in Belmarsh, where he is judicially fighting to prevent his extradition to the United States.
The Lisbon Web Summit is an annual event that, in its 2023 edition, brought together about 2,600 emerging companies and 70,000 people from 160 countries.