We had always pointed out that Ecuador was a somewhat odd choice for Julian Assange to seek asylum with, given that the country doesn't
have a great track record on press freedoms. And some recent actions have suggested that, even as Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the relationship between Assange and Ecuador is strained
. Given that, perhaps it's no surprise that Ecuador is now contemplating a new bill that would criminalize publishing classified documents
, which would certainly turn a significant part of Wikileaks into a criminal operation:
Pablo Romero, the director of Ecuador’s intelligence agency SENAIN, asked the Justice Committee of Ecuador’s National Assembly on August 8 to draft legislation that would “criminalize the disclosure of confidential information of the State” and require would-be publishers to seek government approval before publication. Romero gave as an example the hypothetical publication of special agents’ salaries.
The bill would outlaw the publication of classified documents even if they had previously been published abroad.
That, of course, is a pretty big attack on press freedoms, which does seem slightly ironic. I know that people will likely use this to attack Assange, just as they attack Ed Snowden for ending up in Russia -- but in both cases that seems like misplaced anger. The anger should be towards countries putting in place such awful policies. The fact that Assange has ended up with Ecuador and Snowden with Russia has a lot more to do with the political realities of people trying to stay away from an over-aggressive American government that seems hell bent on putting both men in prison for as long as possible. Given that reality -- combined with things like the US pulling Snowden's passport -- they really had little choice. Yes, it would be great if believers in press freedom could go somewhere that actually respected press freedom, but there are, tragically, very few places that qualify these days -- and when the country that sets itself up as the biggest protector of press freedoms, the United States, is trampling those freedoms to try to get at these two guys, their options are exceptionally limited.