At a press conference in Geneva, representatives of journalists and publishers from Switzerland, Australia and other countries called for the liberation of Julian Assange, writes Sara Chessa.
THE TIME TO lobby for the liberation of Assange is now. This thought was expressed by Karen Percy, Federal Chair of the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), at an event hosted by the Geneva Press Club.
The conference, in which Percy joined via video call, was held to unite the voices of journalists and publishers in a unique call to free the Australian colleague, and it sent a signal to governments: free him, in the name of press freedom.
Pierre Ruetschi, Executive Director of the Press Club, said during the conference introduction:
Ruetschi called on Swiss diplomacy to take action in the Assange case and called on the US to drop the charges. Similar calls were made by many other speakers, ideally targeting key political figures who could step in to save Assange.
The link between his possible extradition and the “horrifying effect” it would have on investigative reporting was acknowledged by all speakers.
A press conference held by the Geneva Press Club, discussing the fate of Julian Assange (image attached).
“We see that publishers are afraid to publish stories that would put them at risk,” said a media representative, who made it clear to the public that the effects of the war on journalism are being felt.
In an effort to share possible solutions, Jean Philippe Ceppi, producer of the investigative show Temps Present, said:
Dominique Pradalie, new president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), was also one of the speakers. She said situations like the one the WikiLeaks publisher finds themselves in “when denouncing crimes becomes a crime.”
Like the other panelists, Pradalie thinks Assange is a political prisoner. “He has only done his job as a journalist,” she said.
IA asked her if she thinks it realistic that the Swiss humanitarian visa can be granted to Assange. “Assange is in a dire situation, so all possibilities must be explored,” she said. “He must be released and returned to his family.”
We later discussed the Swiss humanitarian visa with Guy Mettan, a Swiss journalist and politician who attended the event. The aim was to understand whether such an option can be considered realistic.
We also asked Mettan about his reasons for attending the event. He said:
At the conference to evoke the freedom of Assange, there were also the associations of publishers. Daniel Hammer, secretary general of Suisse Media, the confederation of private media in French-speaking Switzerland, said “espionage charges are always political”.
Hammer seemed more optimistic than Mettan about the possibility of Switzerland considering granting the humanitarian visa to Assange, citing the Swiss tradition of hosting a relatively large number of refugees. “If there is an option, it should be explored,” he said. “However, it would need Britain to allow it,” he added.
Among the speakers and attendees of the event remains the Swiss humanitarian visa for Assange, as does the statement by MEAA Representative Percy, who said her organization will officially ask Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to do what in his power to to free Julian Assange.
At the end of the event, the speakers signed the Assange poster in the room and invited everyone to do it, as a sign of participation. And those who couldn’t be in Geneva can still sign the petition launched by the Swiss Press Club, which already had 11,000 signatures.
As Tim Dawson of the UK’s National Union of Journalists emphasized, if we allow a journalist to be prosecuted for cultivating resources, protecting them, and performing exactly the duties required by investigative reporting, “what message will we be sending to the future generation? investigative journalists?”
Sara Chessa is a UK-based independent journalist. You can follow Sara on Twitter @sarachessa1†