05/21/2014 06:19 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

Brazil Should Mediate Assange's Diplomatic Impasse


Last month, Brazil hosted an important multilateral event that debated the future of the Internet, the Net Mundial, in São Paulo. Representatives of 90 countries attended, but even though it was the first time that an international meeting produced a text and a roadmap for international legislation on the rights and regulations for the Internet, the document is seen as weak and was severely criticized by civil society for not taking a tougher stance against massive surveillance and espionage by the NSA.

But this is only one aspect of the flawed conduction of the Net Mundial -- and more widely of a global debate about governance on the Internet -- by the Brazilian government.

The meeting was called after it was revealed that the NSA had been spying on our President Dilma Rouseff's communications, thanks to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. But if Dilma wants to lead the debate about surveillance and espionage, she needs to recognize the moral obligation of intervening in favor of the seven journalists and whistleblowers without whom the conference would not have happened: Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Sarah Harrison, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and David Miranda.

The Brazilian government left without an answer to Edward Snowden's request for asylum, and Snowden has repeated more than once that he wished to be exiled in Brazil. Sources from the Foreign Ministry have told media that Brazil will not grant him asylum. Brazil, at the same time, never took a strong stance about the situation of Julian Assange, who has been under de facto arrest without charge for 1260 days, and has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for two years.

The diplomatic impasse between Ecuador and the United Kingdom -- which denies Assange the safe pass that would allow him to enjoy the exile that he has been granted by Ecuador -- urgently needs mediators so it can advance. I see Brazil as a natural and necessary candidate due to its experience and efficiency in international diplomatic negotiations.

If Brazil wants to be a world leader in the debate about Internet governance, it will have to be more assertive. A debate about the Internet, freedom, digital privacy, rights and surveillance is not possible without seeking a solution to the criminalization of the journalistic work that was done by this group of people.

To pretend that this issue -- which is at the core of today's digital geopolitics and of the American upper hand over the Internet -- does not exist is like not seeing the white elephant in the living room. Any attempt to advance the debate without addressing their situation will be a farce.

That's why I, like thousands of Brazilians, ask: President Dilma, do offer asylum for Edward Snowden and offer Brazilian diplomacy to mediate the negotiations between the U.K. and Ecuador, so that Julian Assange can enjoy the asylum he has been granted by our neighboring country at last.