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JAILED journalist Julian Assange was honoured today as he scooped the Consortium Press 2020 Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award for “courage in the face of an unprecedented attack on press freedom.”
It is one of many press freedom awards won by the WikiLeaks founder who remains incarcerated in Britain’s top-security Belmarsh prison where he awaits extradition to the US and a potential 175-year prison sentence under the draconian Espionage Act.
The board of the Consortium for Independent Journalism voted to bestow the award on Mr Assange, recognising him as “an international symbol of the threat to press freedom.”
Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger, a member of the consortium news board and a leading supporter of Mr Assange said: “Having been close to Julian Assange through much of his struggle against corrupt power, I had no hesitation in voting for him for the Gary Webb prize. While Gary was a tragedy at the end, Julian must be a triumph.”
The prize is named after US journalist Gary Webb whose fearless reporting uncovered a CIA operation that saw cocaine that was imported from Contra rebels in Nicaragua hit the streets of urban areas in the US.
The cash was used by the Contras to wage an insurgency against the revolutionary Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega. Mr Webb was found dead in 2004 with two gunshot wounds to his head. The coroner ruled he had committed suicide.
Mr Assange remains in prison despite his sentence for “skipping bail” ending in September last year.
Judges deemed him to be a flight risk, ordering him to remain behind bars, where his health had deteriorated to such a degree that medical experts have warned that he may die.
His extradition hearing begins on February 24 at Woolwich Crown Court and is expected to last until May.
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