Meanwhile in… the USA – Julian Assange

International students or staff members comment on events in their home country.
Protest outside the British Embassy in Brussels in 2019. Photo Shutterstock

Text Youssef el Khattabi

WUR is incredibly diverse, with hundreds of internationals working and studying here. In the Meanwhile in column, we ask one of them to comment on certain events in their home country. This time, Environmental Sciences Bachelor’s student Ryland Barton (20) from the US shares his views on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to the US.

Barton: ‘Julian Assange, the Australian WikiLeaks founder, released classified American documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010. He is currently in prison in the UK, fighting extradition to America. It’s a complex case that shows the tension between the public’s right to information and the government’s need for secrecy.

‘Assange’s release of those documents aroused a complex mix of emotions. Many people, myself included, see the war in Iraq as a misjudgement and Assange’s actions as a necessary revelation of the truth. The portrayal of Assange in the US media has varied, with some stories portraying him as a victim of political machinations. Given the polarized nature of media representations, I find it difficult to take a strong position. The press plays an indispensable role in safeguarding freedom. There is a need for investigative journalism to keep various powers in check. Yet there’s also the question of what should remain confidential in the public interest.

‘I don’t really remember the impact WikiLeaks had in 2010, as I was only seven. However, I still remember the 2013 case of Edward Snowden, which is similar to Assange. Some of my relatives were angry because they believed he was some kind of traitor to our country.

‘I view Assange’s potential trial with a pragmatic eye, emphasizing the legality of the actions rather than the moral debates surrounding them. It is illegal to hack into government computers and leak sensitive information. I think the US plays a dual role, on the one hand being the champion of freedom and on the other hand having moments of moral ambiguity. This highlights the complex balance between upholding liberty and managing national security interests.’

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