Julian Assange, the enigmatic and controversial founder of WikiLeaks will be stepping down as Editor in Chief. Assange had been living in Ecuador’s London embassy for the last 6 years. Now the Ecuadorian government has decided to cut off his internet access for 6 months.
For these reasons, he could not fulfill his obligations as Editor in Chief. Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson will replace Assange as Editor in Chief. Hrafnsson has worked several different roles during his time at WikiLeaks.
Hrafnsson’s most recent duties were that of a spokesperson. Hrafnsson has worked at WikiLeaks for 7 years between 2009 and 2016. So Assange knows that Hrafnsson is a man who can be trusted.
Assange hasn’t been totally cut off from the organization as he will still be working as a publisher. This means Assange will have the final say in what story gets released and will also be managing his staff.
Hrafnsson told WikiLeaks, “I condemn the treatment of Julian Assange that leads to my new role but I welcome the opportunity to secure the continuation of the important work based on WikiLeaks ideals.”
Assange had been operating out of Ecuador’s embassy since 2012. He was authorized asylum by then President of Ecuador Rafael Correa. The Ecuadorian government believed Assange’s claims of his life being in danger are true.
This is due to the fact that the founder had leaked classified information on some of the most powerful people in the world including US politicians.
He is trapped at the embassy as the UK police have every right to arrest him on grounds of skipping bail in 2012.
WikiLeaks rose to prominence in 2010 when it leaked the Collateral Murder video, a 39-minute gunsight footage of a 2007 Baghdad airstrike conducted by a team of two U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters.
The footage was deemed classified but Chelsea Manning, the US soldier who leaked the footage to WikiLeaks, testified in 2013 that it was not classified. The footage shows US soldiers laughing at civilians as they mercilessly gunned them down.
In the same year, within a span of a few months, WikiLeaks also released Afghanistan war logs and Iraq war logs.
The current president of Ecuador Lenin Moreno is less than enthusiastic in helping the Australian hacker. Moreno believes that it will jeopardize Ecuador’s relations with other countries, and put Ecuador’s reputation at risk.
The Associated Press got a chance to speak with Moreno on Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The President confirmed that Assange has been banished from using the internet because of his espionage work which infuriates other countries.
Moreno gave a quote to The AP, “I understand that currently, he has no access (to the internet) to stop him from doing that again.”
He further added, “But if Mr. Assange promises to stop emitting opinions on the politics of friendly nations like Spain or the United States then we have no problem with his going online.”
Only time will tell if Assange’s new role will ease the tension between him and Ecuador’s current regime. Moreno also mentioned that he will be working with the British government to agree on the terms of Assange’s release soon.