The President of Mexico recently spoke out in support of Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder was honoured with the keys to Mexico City. Australia must do more to bring Assange home, writes Dr John Jiggens.
JULIAN ASSANGE’S family (his father John Shipton and his brother Gabriel Shipton) have returned from Mexico where they were invited to attend the celebrations of Mexico’s Independence Day by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who is affectionately known as "AMLO" from his initials.
AMLO has repeatedly expressed his support for Julian Assange and offered the WikiLeaks founder political asylum in January 2021. In July, President Obrador revealed that he had sent U.S. President Joe Biden a letter requesting the exoneration of Assange.
On 12 September, the Shiptons spoke at a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to protest the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and demand the release of the WikiLeaks founder.
Gabriel Shipton said:
“Blinken travels the world saying that free speech is a top concern in Washington, but they continue to persecute Julian Assange... He is a global symbol of free speech."
Radio Havana Cuba reported:
'The U.S. cannot give lessons on free speech while the "best journalist in the world" remains in prison'.
At a public ceremony to honour Julian Assange on 15 September, the mayor of Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo named Assange a "distinguished guest" and delivered the keys to the city to John and Gabriel on behalf of Julian.
Among the distinguished guests at the ceremony were Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara March, the grandson of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and the family of Nelson Mandela — a reflection of the extraordinary regard that Julian Assange is held in all around the Global South.
Former Minister of National Defence of Ecuador Ricardo Patiño also attended and delivered to Gabriel and John the national journalism award given to the WikiLeaks founder by the Club de Periodistas de Mexico (Mexican press club) in 2018.
Mayor Sheinbaum declared:
Julian Assange represents the truth. He represents freedom of expression and never, anywhere in the world, can that be persecuted. Today, in this national month, we endorse independence and because we always endorse freedom of expression, Julian Assange will be welcomed, through his family, to Mexico City.
We hand over the keys to the city to the family of Julian Assange. For us, Julian represents the truth, freedom of expression.
On 16 September, Mexico’s national holiday, Independence Day, the Shiptons found themselves honoured guests at a state dinner where they met Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his wife.
John Shipton told me:
“The affection for Julian in Mexico and South America is tremendous. We sat next to Che Guevara’s daughter who is much loved in South America and Evo Morales, the ex-president of Bolivia. It was a wonderful event!”
A delighted John Shipton recalled:
The speech of President Obrador was extraordinary. He spoke at length and welcomed Gabriel and me to the celebration and spoke in support of Julian and also in support of peace and a diplomatic and peaceful settlement in the Ukraine-Russia war. A very brave man. They gave us a commemorative medal of silver to take back and give to Julian and thanked us publicly for our attendance. Marvellous! A marvellous 10 days of constant interviews and interest from the Mexican public and their TV and radio.
The contrast between the overwhelming support for Assange shown by the Mexican Government and its people and the situation in Australia seems striking. However, John Shipton remains optimistic, quoting an online poll showing 88 per cent of Australians support Julian’s return to Australia.
The Labor party was elected to Government on a platform of support for Julian as were the Teal Independents and the Greens were pretty good here too. The ABC broadcast the film Ithaka and 550,000 people viewed it.
Julian is aware and delighted by the Mexican support. His spirit has lifted considerably with the reception and support of the Mexican President. It was really important. What Mexico has shown to Julian is worth more than gold.
Dr John Jiggens is a writer and journalist currently working in the community newsroom at Bay-FM in Byron Bay.
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