Leveson Inquiry: Julian Assange likens coverage of him to that of the McCanns

 

Julian Assange has claimed he has suffered from inaccurate and negative media coverage "possibly on a scale not seen since the abuse of the McCanns".

The WikiLeaks founder criticised newspaper and magazine watchdog the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for its handling of his complaints.

In a written statement to the Leveson Inquiry released today, Assange suggested that inaccurate reporting of his case had an impact on his battle against extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.

He compared himself to Kate and Gerry McCann, who were the subject of many negative articles after Portuguese police temporarily made them "arguidos" or formal suspects in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine in May 2007.

He wrote: "Those who have been the subject of ongoing, widespread inaccurate and negative media coverage - as I have, possibly on a scale not seen since the abuse of the McCanns - know that the harms created for individuals and small organisations or groups by a failure to maintain high ethical journalistic standards can be severe, consequential and almost insurmountable."

Assange said the PCC ruled it was "perfectly acceptable" to say he had been charged with rape when in fact he has only been accused of the offence.

He said in his statement: "The PCC's clear failure to enforce proper standards of accuracy and fairness - indeed, its reluctance to act and to adhere to its own guidelines because of the active case against me - comes at a time when, due to the number of other of our legal cases already in play and my grave personal circumstances under house arrest awaiting a Supreme Court extradition decision, my ability to achieve justice through libel actions at the moment when they are needed is severely curtailed."

He added: "Press falsehoods need to be disincentivised or they will flourish. Unfortunately, the Press Complaints Commission does not provide effective disincentives or corrective remedies for victims.

"Neither, in many cases, do the courts due to the expense of libel actions."

Assange, an Australian former computer hacker, made headlines around the world with revelations from secret US military files and diplomatic cables released by his controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

He is waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, against being extradited to Sweden.

PA

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