Media are barred from attending Cambridge University’s debating society, the Cambridge Union, tonight when it hosts WikiLeaks co-founder and libertarian/lefty hero Julian Assange.
The Australian, who has been hiding in the Ecuador embassy in London since 2013, will appear before the 200-year-old student-led debating society by video-link, but organisers have issued strict instructions for journalists to stay away.
Members of the press are regularly invited to cover union events, which this year celebrated its bicentennial, under the slogan ‘celebrating 200 years of free speech’. Student members of the union recently voted 3 to 1 in a referendum to host the address featuring Mr. Assange, a man committed to openness and transparency in all things except, it seems, the matter of his own opinions.
The move led to the resignation of Helen Dallas, the society’s women’s officer for the current term.
After members approved the event, union president Oliver Mosley said: “The format of the coming event will be announced closer to the time, and the union will ensure that it can act as a platform for those that wish to criticise or question, as has been the case so many times in the past.
However the student society yesterday issued a statement saying only “student press” will be allowed to attend, according to the Cambridge News.
Asked whether this decision had been made at Mr Assange’s request, union press officer Timothy Adelani said: “We don’t comment on individual arrangements with our speakers.”
The WikiLeaks editor-in-chief has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, London to avoid a date with Swedish justice after allegations of rape were made against him.
WikiLeaks claims that if he leaves his sanctuary Mr. Assange could be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden, where he could face up to 45 years in prison.