Dear Prime Minister,
I was proud to see Canada co-sponsoring the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London in early July.
While I’m a citizen of Canada, I’m also a citizen of the world, and it seems to me that media freedoms are under serious threat all over. Seeing Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland co-host that conference made me feel proud to be Canadian.
It was timely and important because since 2015 Canada has gone from eighth place on the World Press Freedom Index to number 18.
So I hope you will reflect deeply on the ideas that were conveyed by the many experts you invited to speak at this conference. Journalists being hacked apart with saws in embassies, and publishers being forcibly dragged out of embassies to face 175 years in jail for publishing, cannot become the new normal.
One of the most celebrated speakers on media freedom at the conference was barrister Amal Clooney, who said, “the indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has alarmed journalists at newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian because, as the editor of the Washington Post has put it, the indictment… ‘criminalises common practices in journalism that have long served the public interest’.
Accurate information is necessary for an informed citizenry. Accountable governments are necessary for democracy to survive. That basic fact is very widely recognised; it’s in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
This is why I, as a Canadian citizen, support Julian Assange, an Australian publisher, currently in a British jail, facing extradition to the United States.
With so many of the Five Eyes involved in this case, as part of your efforts to defend and extend the democratic freedom of the press and expression, I ask that you will use your good offices to call for this case to be immediately closed. The US Government must drop its extradition request, in order that the UK may let him return home.
When my country is championing human rights, women’s rights, multiculturalism, and a world free of landmines, of course I am proud. I need you to make us proud by responding to the urgent threats to media freedom: not just in convening a conference, but in standing up to those who pose such threats.
I look forward to any undertakings you are willing to make in defence of Julian Assange.