JULIAN Assange will most likely take his own life if he is convicted, an online meeting for NUJ members has heard.
Jen Robinson, lawyer to the Wikileaks founder for a decade, told members that her client ‘had hardly been able to hold a conversation when he was in solitary confinement in Belmarsh.’
The meeting, attended by nearly 100 NUJ activists, provided an update on Assange’s extradition hearing and called on journalists everywhere to campaign for his release.
Alan Rusbridger, former Guardian editor-in-chief, opened the online gathering. ‘The move to extradite Julian Assange is disturbing – as is the mute response among journalists,’ he said.
‘Assange is accused of doing things that journalists do.
‘He is accused of having an amazing source who was giving him information, and he encouraged that source to give him more information.
‘If we allow Assange to be convicted, it will have huge implications for anyone who wants to do investigative journalism.’
Jen Robinson described the stark experience of seeing someone ‘who is responsible for some of the most significant publications of recent years … having his liberty restricted for over a decade’.
Tim Dawson, NUJ national executive council member who observed the extradition hearing on behalf of the union and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), encouraged members to seek out the actual charges laid against Assange.
He said: ‘The Espionage Act of 1917 under which he is charged has far more often been used to prosecute trades union and working-class leaders than it has spies.
‘It is a discretionary cosh used to harass and lock up civic activists. Extending its scope to journalists, as this prosecution would, is a terrifying prospect.’
Séamus Dooley, who chaired the meeting, closed with a promise: ‘The barbarous treatment of Julian Assange, whose sin has been to expose truth, means that this is an issue with which journalists cannot become bored.
‘Our challenge as a union is to develop a strategy to ensure that does not happen. It is not one that we will shirk.’
- Home Secretary Priti Patel has escaped being sacked despite accusations she bullied staff in the Home Office including former permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam.
A report by the Prime Minister’s adviser on Ministerial Standards said originally that the Home Secretary had ‘not consistently met the high standards expected of her.’
However, Boris Johnson has decided that the ministerial code was not breached by Patel despite the report.
Johnson’s adviser Sir Alex Allan has now resigned in response.
Patel apologised saying she was ‘sorry her behaviour in the past (had) upset people.’
It is not the first controversy to surround the Home Secretary. Patel came under heavy criticism for a Dad’s Army-style video depicting migrants swarming into Britain, when many were escaping persecution or looking to set up a new life in this country.
The general secretary of the civil servants’ union PCS (Public and Commercial Services), Mark Serwotka, said: ‘It is outrageous that Priti Patel has not been sacked despite the Prime Minister’s own adviser on the Ministerial Code found her to be in breach, following serious accusations of bullying in the department.
‘Civil servants do an incredibly difficult job keeping public services running and impartially advising ministers.
‘There should be no circumstances where bullying is acceptable and this should be a warning to other ministers that our union will not tolerate any bullying, harassment or intimidation in the workplace.’
Meanwhile, a PCS petition for fair pay for UK government workers has surged past 80,000 signatures with more than 5,000 people signing it since it was reported chancellor Rishi Sunak is to announce a public sector pay freeze for millions of workers.
The chancellor will set out his spending review in the coming week, giving details of how much money will be allocated to different departments during the 2020-21 financial year. And he is expected to make the case for pay restraint to reflect a fall in private sector earnings this year.
‘This is a slap in the face for millions of public sector workers who have worked hard to keep vital services running this and who have suffered over a decade of pay restraint,’ said the PCS adding:
‘It is therefore crucial that PCS members and supporters show their disgust at the plans by signing and sharing our online petition for fair pay for UK government workers and by reaching 100,000 signatures force MPs to debate the issue in parliament.’