Rome, Caput Mundi at the time of the Roman Empire, cradle (together with Florence) of Renaissance humanism, Gold Medal for Military Valour during the Resistance, the city that gave birth to the European Community (later the European Union), today boasts another of its many pre-eminences: it has become the first capital city in the world to grant Julian Assange honorary citizenship.
The recognition bestowed on the Australian journalist/editor, still imprisoned in the United Kingdom awaiting extradition to the United States, was approved at 6.30 pm today by the Rome City Council, with 22 votes in favour, none against and a dozen abstentions, to the applause of the many pro-Assange activists who filled Julius Caesar hall and who, from postponement to postponement, had already been to the Council chamber to lobby seven times since the citizenship motion was filed four months ago.
The motion 83/2023 was sponsored by Virginia Raggi, former mayor of Rome, and her fellow Five Star Movement council persons. After this political victory, the next steps now are the implementing resolution, the opinion of the City advisors and the signature of the Mayor.
“It’s an immense joy for all of us,” added one of the activists present, visibly moved, “not only because it recognises the merits of the co-founder of WikiLeaks who, with his site, reinvented investigative journalism, but because it takes a stand in favor of protecting investigative journalism everywhere.”
Indeed, many observers agree that the Trump administration’s indictment of Assange was intended precisely to crush investigative journalism at home and abroad: “Strike one to educate one hundred”. This opinion was reiterated in an open letter to Mayor Gualtieri published last week by the president of Articolo 21, the Italian press freedom association and strong Assange supporter.
Rome’s recognition follows the awarding of political asylum to Julian Assange yesterday by the city of Perugia and by the awarding of honorary citizenship by Naples, announced in the Neapolitan City Council on 28 September by Mayor Gaetano Manfredi through his councilor for tourism Teresa Amato. Reggio Emilia, too, proclaimed Assange an honorary citizen on 18 September, and many small municipalities all over the peninsula have also either already conferred the honour or are about to do so. The first ever was Lucera (Foggia) on June 28th, 2022.