British High Court Denies Access To Upcoming Assange Hearing

British High Court Denies Access To Upcoming Assange Hearing
Royal Courts of Justice in London, which houses the High Court of Justice (Photo: Joe Passe)

The British High Court of Justice specifically denied The Dissenter Newsletter access to the May 20 hearing in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition case. 

In an order issued on May 13, the court indicated that it had considered “each individual request to attend the hearing by videolink” and that each individual who “requested to attend would be informed of the court’s decision and reasons.”

A staff member representing the administrative office of His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service notified me nearly a day later that my request for a videolink was denied because I “will not be in England and Wales at the time of the hearing.” 

“There are legal restrictions on attendance at a remote hearing which cannot be enforced by the court if the attendee is not within the court's jurisdiction. It is not in the interests of justice to grant this request,” the His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service staff member added.

Previously, His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service granted me videolink access. But the High Court once again takes the position that international journalists will not obey the court’s rules and regulations if they are not in England or Wales during the hearing because the court lacks the authority to legally threaten or punish journalists outside of England or Wales for not following the rules. 

What this means is that The Dissenter, which operates on a shoestring budget, must hire a reporter based in London to cover the proceedings on May 20. 

Can you help The Dissenter raise money to pay a reporter to cover the May 20 hearing in the Assange case? Donate to The Dissenter.

His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service invited international journalists to apply for videolink access, even if they would not be in England or Wales. The court deceitfully asked international journalists to describe why it would be in the “interests of open justice” to accommodate their request when it had no intention of credentialing such reporters.

“It is unclear given a prior application to the court for access what is considered ‘in the interests of justice" or more specifically ‘open justice,’” I wrote in my application. “The court maintains that justice does not require the credentialing of journalists, who are not in the jurisdiction of England or Wales, because there will be plenty of media in attendance without accommodating international journalists.”

As anticipated, the staff member for the administrative court office of His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service justified the denial of access by asserting that “a large number of remote links” will be provided to journalists from the United States and Australia. Those journalists will be in England and Wales.  

The court’s position is an affront to journalism, and it certainly does not promote principles of freedom of the press.

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Why does the court suddenly take this position toward international journalists? Assange has been challenging the extradition request for four to five years. Dozens of international journalists have attended via videolink. Not a single judge has ever indicated that a member of the news media engaged in conduct, which the court was powerless to prevent.

I mentioned the media access issues that plagued the court’s February hearing. “The Royal Courts of Justice can barely seat the journalists in England and Wales, who wish to attend and cover proceedings. It is my understanding that court administrators at a prior hearing asked journalists to give up their seats. There were a number of reporters, who struggled to hear proceedings due to acoustic problems in the court.”

“Administrators may remedy this problem by granting remote access to international journalists. As it stands, if international journalists travel thousands of kilometers to the court and the court administrators cannot find them a suitable seat, administrators must deal with complaints all day and that journalist is unable to perform their job,” I added.

Unfortunately, the High Court and His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service believes that all international journalists are a potential threat to security, even if court administrators can verify their identity and see their track record of abiding by the court’s rules. 

Denying videolink access to international journalists, including those based in the U.S. and Australia, makes any assertion that the court is upholding open justice laughable.

Nevertheless, The Dissenter remains committed to its impactful coverage of this case, which is of great significance to world press freedom. We cannot let the High Court of Justice and court administrators stand in the way.

Please donate to ensure that The Dissenter is able to report on the next hearing in Assange’s fight against extradition.


Kevin Gosztola
The Dissenter, Editor