Thank you so much for being here tonight for the Boston debut of this acclaimed film, Ithaca. This is the story, as you probably know, of an extraordinary father fighting for the life of his son.
And we are so honored to have that father, John Shipton, along with his other remarkable son, the producer of Ithaca, Gabriel Shipton, here with us tonight. They are a family of staggering, unparalleled courage—enough to change the world. And we are so indebted to them for that.
The son and brother they are fighting for, of course is Julian Assange, the most consequential publisher of our era and the foremost symbol of the global struggle for press freedom. In being here tonight we’re helping lift up this struggle. And I hope the film will inspire everyone of us to do more.
Because it’s not just the life of Julian Assange that’s in the crosshairs. It’s also the life of our democracy that’s hanging in the balance. And the extradition of Julian Assange is an assault on the bedrock foundations of democracy. It’s an attack on press freedom; it makes a mockery of our judicial system with its violations of due process and rule of law; and it’s an affront to the very concept of national sovereignty. By inflicting the US Espionage Act on a non-citizen located outside of this country, it sets a precedent for any authoritarian regime to seize and jail anyone anywhere who publishes information it does not like.
Julian Assange is being persecuted as a publisher for exposing war crimes, corruption and torture committed by our government, in our name, without our consent. These crimes were revealed in the publication by WikiLeaks of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, the state department cables and more. The best known example was probably the collateral murder video showing civilians and a Reuters journalist mowed down by an Apache helicopter gunship—as if it was a video game, or just another day at the office as Julian Assange described it.
Revelations like these are not just OK—they are essential in a democracy and a routine practice of good journalism—like the Pentagon Papers published in 1971 by the New York Times and Washington Post, which were critical for ending the Vietnam War. In the same way that the Afghanistan papers helped end the Afghanistan war in 2021 after decades of fraud and failure.
We need that watchdog journalism right now as we plunge headlong into two deadly cold wars, including one that’s already red hot in Ukraine. Because a free press is the critical counterweight to rampaging militarism—whose risks are off the charts in this age of skyrocketing nuclear threats.
So a big shout out to all watchdog journalists and all of you here today. We need you more than ever. We need Julian Assange more than ever. And we need all of us to keep the heat on. Please consider signing up and showing up if you haven’t already.
In defending his freedom we defend our own! And all of our lives depend on that. Enjoy this incredible movie and then let’s double down and free Julian Assange!