3 May 2021. The General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Anthony Bellanger was interviewed for the “Freedom of Information and Human Rights – A debate starting from the Julian Assange case”, project that Bridges for Media Freedom is carrying out in Italy in collaboration with Filosofia in Movimento, an association of scholars in the field of philosophy, law and social sciences.
On the eve of International Press Freedom Day, Bellanger highlighted the deteriorating environment for media freedom in Europe. According to research published by the IFJ, 229 journalists were imprisoned in Europe at the end of 2020, including Julian Assange in the United Kingdom.
“Unfortunately, we can never assume that a victory in international law is definitive, because political power always finds a reason to go back on these achievements. This applies to all countries, even in Europe. Of course, there are reasons related to national security issues or attacks or the Covid-19 pandemics. Officially, politicians in democracies do not want to touch press freedom, but it is one of the fundamental freedoms and it is always tempting to get it down.”
Mr Bellanger also discussed the increasing difficulty journalists face in fulfilling their ethical duty to protected their sources in the digital environment. The use of encryption is now a necessity for reporters.
Turning to the Assange case, Mr Bellanger also highlighted the serious consequences of a possible extradition for freedom of information.
“Our Federation has been supporting Julian Assange for years, he is a member of the Australian association of journalists, the MAAE, and he also has a press card from the International Federation of Journalists, which I personally signed. If Julian Assange were to be extradited to the US, it would be a disaster for him of course, because he faces 175 years in prison. But it would also be a disaster for all journalists that carry out investigations that could embarrass governments or business leaders.
“Tomorrow, any government could ask for the extradition of a journalist to its soil, on the sole pretest that he or she may have violated the national security laws. This would be the end of investigative journalism. But I want to remain optimistic and I continue to fight with our Australian affiliates, with all the NGOs and associations of the World, with our allies in France and in the UK, to ensure that he is not extradited”.
The IFJ represents 600,000 journalists, who are members of 187 different associations from over 140 countries.
“Freedom of information and human rights – A debate starting from the Julian Assange case” is a project aiming to raise awareness in Italy on the current global threats for media freedom, educating the public through talks that involve academics, scholars and personalities from the world of culture.
To find out more about the project:
Link to the full interview with Anthony Bellanger: