Ecuador's Correa says no hypocrisy in his defense of WikiLeaks' Assange
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, whose government has closed 14 news outlets since the start of the year, says his free speech defense of Assange isn't hypocritical because different rules apply.
In Pictures Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks Scandals
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President Correa says the Latin American press is corrupt and so needs a different set of rules to apply. “Don’t let yourself by fooled by what’s going on,” he told foreign journalists in Ecuador’s second city, Guayaquil, on Monday. “There is this image of the media as being about Woodward and Bernstein and the struggle for freedom of expression, but that’s not the case here. The press in Latin America is totally corrupt.”
Granting asylum to Mr. Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group that has released thousands of US diplomatic cables, is part of what he calls a “David and Goliath” battle against big powers; a battle in which Ecuador “will not back down, no matter how long it takes.”
He and his supporters say the charges are part of a plot to get him extradited to the US where, they say, he could face harsh penalties. The US has not made a formal extradition request for Assange, and it would be harder to secure his extradition from Sweden than it would be from the United Kingdom. Ecuador announced it would formally offer Assange asylum last Thursday.
The UK has refused to allow Assange safe passage out of the country, insisting it will arrest him as required under international and its own extradition treaties. Last week, after the UK warned Ecuador that it might withdraw the embassy's protected status to arrest Assange – who had violated the terms of his house arrest agreement when he fled to the embassy – both Ecuador and Assange ratcheted up tension in the standoff, implying the UK was planning on storming the embassy.
Many believe that Ecuador’s harboring of Assange is merely a ruse to boost Correa’s popularity in the run-up to elections next February and to deflect charges that he has severely restricted freedom of expression in Ecuador.