Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmakers and free speech activists, have penned an op-ed for The New York Times in support of the Ecuadorean government's decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden in connection with alleged sex crimes.
"We have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government," Moore and Stone wrote in the op-ed published Tuesday. "We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador's decision."
The directors criticized the Swedish government for not promising to question Assange, an Australian citizen, without turning him over to the United States.
Swedish authorities have traveled to other countries to conduct interrogations when needed, and the WikiLeaks founder has made clear his willingness to be questioned in London. Moreover, the Ecuadorean government made a direct offer to Sweden to allow Mr. Assange to be interviewed within Ecuador's embassy. In both instances, Sweden refused. Mr. Assange has also committed to traveling to Sweden immediately if the Swedish government pledges that it will not extradite him to the United States. Swedish officials have shown no interest in exploring this proposal.
If Assange is extradited to the United States, Moore and Stone say, it would have a chilling effect on journalism.
"The consequences will reverberate for years around the world," the pair wrote. "Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not."
And Moore put up $20,000 to help bail Assange out of jail following his 2010 arrest. (The Times did not disclose the payment in its op-ed.)
"Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars," Moore wrote on his website that year. "We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again."
On Sunday, Assange spoke from a balcony at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he's been holed up since June.
"I ask President Obama to do the right thing," Assange said as he read a written statement. "The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters."