LONDON: The Embassy of Ecuador has been handling a proactive media operation over Julian Assange's political asylum, inviting senior journalists into its London embassy for off-the-record briefings to explain its position.
As the situation escalates into a major diplomatic dispute between the Ecuadorian and UK governments, it has emerged that the embassy has over the past month invited key “friendly contacts” from outlets such as the Press Association, the BBC, and The Guardian into the embassy for Chatham House briefings.
The briefings have included a discussion with a British legal adviser and a member of the ambassador's staff to deal with diplomatic questions over Assange's political asylum.
Press Association reporter Alan Jones was invited into the embassy for a second time yesterday. He was there at the time of the announcement that Assange had been granted diplomatic immunity by the Ecuadorian government. Jones pointed out that Assange himself is not available for interview as part of the briefing.
Jones said: “They're very keen not to expose Assange. The phone was ringing the whole time I was there and it was mainly journalists - they're under an amazing amount of pressure. Press-wise, they're handling it as well as anyone can handle it.”
Around 200 journalists descended on the embassy yesterday when it was revealed that Assange had been handed diplomatic immunity, after allegations that the British government threatened to storm the embassy to seize Assange. He has been holed up at the embassy for nearly two months.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke at a press conference at the Foreign Office yesterday afternoon. In the press conference, Hague stressed the British government's position that it is lawfully obliged to extradite Assange.
He said: “We're disappointed by the statement by Ecuador's foreign minister today that Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian Assange. Under our law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We must carry out that obligation and of course we fully intend to do so.”