WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY), are leading 16 Members of Congress in calling on the Biden administration to drop all charges and halt extradition proceedings against Australian publisher Julian Assange.
Mr. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, faces multiple charges under the Espionage Act due to his role in publishing classified documents about the U.S. State Department, Guantanamo Bay, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pursuing charges against Mr. Assange for his work would set a dangerous precedent and have a chilling effect on journalistic freedoms, say the lawmakers in their letter. The full text can be found here.
“We clearly have deep concerns about Mr. Assange’s case,” said Congressman McGovern. “People should understand that the charges against him highlighted in our letter are part of an alarming global trend—a sharp increase in attacks against the freedom of the press that is happening in countries around the world, including our own. The bottom line is that journalism is not a crime. The work reporters do is about transparency, trust, and speaking truth to power. When they are unjustly targeted, we all suffer the consequences. The stakes are too high for us to remain silent.”
The members also note in the letter that “should the U.S. extradition and prosecution go forward, there is a significant risk that our bilateral relationship with Australia will be badly damaged.”
McGovern is Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a longtime champion of human rights. As the co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, he leads the only congressional commission charged with promoting, defending, and advocating for international human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.
The Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project that McGovern helped launch aims to increase attention to human rights abuses by encouraging Members of Congress to advocate on behalf of individual prisoners of conscience around the world. 24 Defending Freedoms Project cases are journalists. 21 are imprisoned and 3 are under conditional release.
In addition to McGovern and Massie, the letter was also signed by: Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Eric Burlison (R-MO), Ilhan Omar (D-MI), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Matthew Rosendale, Sr. (R-MT), Greg Casar (D-TX), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (D-NY), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).