It looks like government officials want to intimidate journalists so that they will be afraid to publish classified information that reveals crimes or other activities that officials do not want the public to know about
When the Trump administration indicted WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange under the infamous 1917 Espionage Act, journalists and other public figures sounded the alarms, warning of a war on the free press.
Biden’s Justice Department has not called off the attack. On the contrary, it is moving full speed ahead with the prosecution. So where is the chorus of voices who denounced the indictments in 2019? They’ve gone quiet this year. Members of Congress have been silent. They should speak up now, as the case hangs in the balance.
The 18-count indictment against Assange, along with a corresponding extradition appeal to the British judiciary, has kept him in prison for nearly two years without trial. A United Nations expert has called the conditions of his imprisonment “psychological torture.”
It looks like government officials want to intimidate journalists so that they will be afraid to publish classified information that reveals crimes or other activity that officials do not want the public to know about.
America’s most prominent organizations concerned with human rights, freedom of the press and civil liberties haven’t lost sight of the threat that this indictment and continued prosecution of Assange pose to fundamental press freedoms. They wrote a letter to the Justice Department in February calling it a “grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad,” which could “jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy.”
The signatories to the letter included the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
For the first time in more than a century, a journalist could be tried and imprisoned—the charges carry a maximum of 175 years in prison—for publishing facts that the U.S. government did not want published. Assange is not charged with stealing classified information. And although he is indicted under the infamous 1917 Espionage Act, he is not charged with any collusion with a foreign power.