A group of more than 25 press freedom, civil liberties and international human rights advocacy organisations issued a statement in mid-October, calling for the charges against Assange to be dropped.
On 4 January, British District Judge Vanessa Baraister ruled that Assange should not be extradited, saying the risk he would commit suicide in a US jail were too high.
Assange faces criminal charges for publishing classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now, after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.
His asylum was withdrawn by Ecuador shortly before he was arrested and he appeared in court soon thereafter. The US made a formal request for his extradition on 6 June 2019.
This week a US appeal for extradition of Julian #Assange will be heard in court in London. The Australian Govt has long refused to acknowledge the huge impact of this case on #pressfreedom. But it's not too late. They must speak up and press US Govt to drop the charges. #auspol https://t.co/ucz938XXAU— Rex Patrick (@Senator_Patrick) October 23, 2021
The letter was signed by Access Now, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Centre for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Education Fund, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, First Amendment Coalition, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Free Press Unlimited, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, National Coalition Against Censorship, Open The Government Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, Reporters Without Borders, RootsAction.org, The Press Freedom Defence Fund of First Look Institute, and Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts.
Julian Assange finacee @stellamoris1 speaks at yesterdays huge March for Assange in London, ahead of upcoming October 27-28 court hearing: "your right to know is what is being criminalized" #FreeAssangeNOW #NoExtradition pic.twitter.com/Cudl9shUUf— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 24, 2021
The organisations said they were were of one voice that the criminal case against Assange posed a grave threat to press freedom both in the US and abroad.
"We were disappointed that the Department of Justice appealed the decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to reject the Trump administration’s extradition request," the statement said. "Especially in light of the recent news report, we urge you to drop that appeal and dismiss the underlying indictment."
The news report referred to claimed that the CIA had discussed plans in 2017 to either kill or abduct Assange.
"As we explained in our earlier letter, journalists routinely engage in much of the conduct described in the indictment: speaking with sources, asking for clarification or more documentation, and receiving and publishing official secrets," the organisations said.
Yesterday I was proud to march in support of the campaign against the imprisonment and extradition of Julian Assange.— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) October 24, 2021
Julian Assange is being persecuted for revealing war crimes and human rights abuses. This is an attempt to intimidate and silence journalists and whistleblowers. pic.twitter.com/PpaAvA2rca
"News organisations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance.
"We appreciate that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting bona fide national security interests, but the proceedings against Assange jeopardise journalism that is crucial to democracy.
"In our view, a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press.
"Major news organisations share this concern. The charges against Assange have been condemned by virtually every major American news outlet, even though many of those news outlets have criticised Assange in the past.
"In light of these concerns, and in light of the shocking new reporting on the government’s conduct in this case, we respectfully urge you to drop the ongoing appeal of Judge Baraitser’s ruling and to dismiss the indictment of Assange."