A coalition of more than 20 civil liberties organizations is calling on US Department of Justice under President Biden to drop charges and extradition proceedings against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. As the letter sent February 8, 2021, states, the National Coalition Against Censorship and all of the signatories are deeply concerned that the indictment of Assange “poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad.”
The charges against Mr. Assange threaten press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do. Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. This case could set a precedent that effectively criminalizes these common journalistic practices.
In addition, some of the charges included in the indictment turn entirely on Mr. Assange’s decision to publish classified information. News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance. While the government has a legitimate interest in protecting true national security interests, the proceedings against Mr. Assange jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy.
We are deeply concerned about the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged against publishers and journalists of all stripes. Major news organizations share this concern, which is why the announcement of charges against Assange in May 2019 was met with vociferous and nearly universal condemnation from virtually every major American news outlet, even though many of those news outlets have criticized Mr. Assange in the past.
Read the full letter to the US Department of Justice district below. Click here for a full screen view: