16/04/2019 1:10 PM IST

Julian Assange's Arrest An Attack On Press Freedom, Say Arundhati Roy, Indira Jaising And Others

"We demand that Assange be set free immediately," the statement read.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters

A group of six eminent Indian journalists and academicians have issued a statement, condemning the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and demanding that he be set free. 

“His arrest, and the attempt to extradite him to the US are, clearly, attacks on freedom of the press and its right to publish,” read the statement, which has been published on Newsclick

The signatories of the statement are N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu Group of Publications, Arundhati Roy, Indira Jaising, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, P. Sainath and Romila Thapar. 

Assange as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks is primarily a journalist, although he is a “journalist of a new type” who has operated on a scale that is unprecedented, the statement read.

“The journalism WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief stand for is a journalism of outrage — outrage against the injustices and atrocities that take place round the world — but always with an eye to factuality, substantiation, and precision.”

London police had dragged Assange out of Ecuador’s embassy last Thursday after his seven-year asylum was revoked, paving the way for his extradition to the United States.

US prosecutors announced charges against Assange, accusing him of conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.

The writers and academicians said, in the statement, that charging Assange with conspiracy bypasses the protection of law that exists for the press internationally — including the First Amendment in the US.

This indictment strikes at the very heart of journalism and creates a precedent to attack the press anywhere, the statement read. 

“We demand that Assange be set free immediately. We demand that the authorities concerned take the necessary steps to preserve the sanctity of journalistic practice.”

Read the full text of the statement here

(With Reuters inputs)