Entertainment Politics

Extradition ‘Worrying for a Number of Reasons’

On Sunday night, John Oliver dedicated much of the opening to his post-Game of Thrones final season premiere episode to the expulsion and arrest of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

Yes, the Last Week Tonight host tackled Assange’s expulsion from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’s spent the last six-plus years, and subsequent arrest by British authorities, jokingly branding the hacker-turned-publisher “the most controversial Australian export since Vegemite.”

After running a montage of cable-news coverage of Assange being hauled out of the embassy, much of which focused on Assange’s bearded, disheveled appearance, he remarked, “That’s a weird tone to take on a story that’s this important. Yes, his arrest sparks a difficult debate about the efficacy of journalistic protections in the age of cyber espionage, but look how bad he looks!”

“But look,” Oliver continued, “this is a big deal.”

Oliver then went over some of the reasons Ecuadorian officials gave for booting Assange from their embassy, including causing damage by skateboarding through the halls, stealing WiFi, hosting soccer matches, and bad hygiene—including (allegedly) smearing feces on walls.

“It is easy to dislike Julian Assange,” offered Oliver. “He first fled to the embassy to escape extradition to Sweden on rape charges—charges he denied. Alongside the valuable information that WikiLeaks has helped release, they’ve also recklessly published the sensitive personal data of hundreds of ordinary people, potentially putting lives at risk. And that’s not even getting into the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication of hacked emails in 2016 helped elect Trump president.”

He added: “You are allowed not to like him, but America’s current attempts to extradite him hang on a specific charge that many press advocates find unsettling.”

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