In a dramatic call the National Union of Journalists has asked every trade union in the UK to campaign to stop the extradition of Julian Assange to the US.
Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary, has written a letter to the general secretaries of all other unions pointing out the danger to a free press that would be triggered if Assange is extradited.
Writing of the US Espionage Act of 1917 under which Assange could face a lifetime in jail, the NUJ leader wrote: ‘This is a repressive statute that has in the past been used to jail trades union activists and working-class leaders. More particularly, the charges themselves seek to criminalise activity that for many NUJ members is their daily work – cultivating sources who are willing to share sensitive information that reveals incompetence, corruption, and illegality’.
The NUJ has been at the forefront of campaigning to stop Assange’s extradition and in the letter Michelle Stanistreet addresses her fellow general secretaries directly: ‘It is vital that we build a campaign to oppose Mr Assange’s extradition and prosecution that is located in the mainstream of progressive concerns – and only trades unions have the reach to achieve this. I am hoping that you will join in this campaign.’
The letter contains a model motion that other unions can use to align their policy with this call for solidarity from the NUJ.
The train drivers union (ASLEF) has already adopted national policy to support the Assange campaign and this letter from the NUJ is sure to see other unions join the campaign.
The NUJ is offering to send its executive members to meetings organised by other trade unionists to explain why the union is appealing for support for Julian Assange. The NUJ recently held an online rally to discuss the case with former Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger, NUJ executive member Tim Dawson, the union’s Assistant General Secretary Seamas Dooley, and Julian Assange’s lawyer Jen Robinson.