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Committee to Protect Journalists under fire for failing to include Assange on its list of jailed journalists for the third year in a row

THE New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has come under fire for failing to include Julian Assange on its list of jailed journalists for the third year in a row.

Writing in online publication The Dissenter, Kevin Gosztola strongly criticised the exclusion of the WikiLeaks founder from the committee’s annual report.

“Every day that the CPJ denies Assange a place in their jailed journalist index dilutes their credibility, as well as the ability of their advocacy to meaningfully contribute to an end to the US government’s concerted attack on journalism,” he argued.

The so-called press freedom organisation has previously justified Mr Assange’s omission by saying “CPJ defines journalists as people who cover news or comment on public affairs through any media—including in print, in photographs, on radio, on television and online.”

In November last year, CPJ executive director Joel Simon failed to include Mr Assange’s case when highlighting the press freedom issues that President Joe Biden needed to tackle on taking office.

The committee declined to comment when asked by the Morning Star, instead highlighting a 2020 statement by its deputy executive director Robert Mahoney.

“After extensive research and consideration, CPJ chose not to list Assange as a journalist, in part because his role has just as often been as a source and because WikiLeaks does not generally perform as a news outlet with an editorial process,” he said.

But Don’t Extradite Assange spokesman John Rees poured scorn on such claims, highlighting Mr Assange’s membership of the Australian journalists’ union. 

He also holds a press card from the International Federation of Journalists.

“He has won numerous journalist awards, almost certainly more than those claiming he’s not a journalist. They need to rethink the decision,” he told the Morning Star. 

Mr Assange remains in Belmarsh prison, from where he faces extradition to the United States after the Court of Appeal accepted Washington’s assurances regarding his safety at a hearing earlier this month.

The decision raised eyebrows after it was revealed in the summer that the CIA had plotted to assassinate him in London with the alleged support of British intelligence services.

Mr Assange faces 175 years behind bars under the draconian Espionage Act after he revealed to the world the war crimes committed by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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