Julian Assange has stepped aside as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, with the group saying his departure was “due to the extraordinary circumstances” of him being unable to communicate with anyone but his lawyers for the last six months. Assange has appointed Kristinn Hrafnsson to replace him. Hrafnsson is an Icelandic journalist who served as WikiLeaks’ spokesperson from 2010 to 2016.
Assange has been unable to communicate with the outside world since the end of March, when his internet access was shut off. The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK to avoid arrest or extradition, first for questioning around sexual assault allegations and later largely due to the presumption that the US plans to file charges once he leaves.
Ecuador granted him asylum in 2012, and he’s been living inside the country’s embassy ever since. He continued to operate WikiLeaks from there, releasing, among other things, stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman that helped to influence the 2016 presidential election.
But in March, Ecuador had apparently had enough. The country said he violated an agreement to, essentially, not piss off other countries, so it cut off his internet access. WikiLeaks says the country installed signal jammers to prevent him from accessing the internet in any way and have prevented him from seeing anyone but his lawyers.
Assange will continue to serve as the publisher of WikiLeaks, which is more of an honorary title that implies his stewardship of the site. Hrafnsson, the new editor-in-chief, says he “welcome[s] the responsibility to secure the continuation of the important work based on WikiLeaks ideals.”