Duplicity of Western democracies

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is finally a free man. Mr Assange recently walked out of a British jail following a plea deal with the United States Justice Department on a conspiracy charge.  Even though he has been released under a plea still very news of him being freed has been welcomed across the world. He is seen as a champion of free press all over the world. He fought years of legal battles and confrontations with the governments of multiple countries. Mr Assange started to dominate media headlines for disclosing troves of secret documents exposing the brutalities of America’s war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As per the agreement with the USA, he will plead guilty to violating the Espionage Act and receive credit for the time he spent behind bars in Britain while fighting extradition to America. This development implies that Assange’s release from prison is a victory for him and his many supporters around the world, but not necessarily a win for the principles of press freedom. He will still be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, for “conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified information related to the national defence of the United States.” Although the WikiLeaks founder will get to walk free, the Espionage Act will still hang over the heads of journalists reporting on national security issues. It must be pointed out that, at a fundamental level, Assange, an Australian citizen, did what journalists in free societies are supposed to do: Speak truth to power. But, the hounding and harassment of Assange demonstrated the duplicity of Western democracies that take pride in their freedoms.