'Publishing is not a Crime': Major News Publications Ask US to Drop Charges Against Julian Assange
Julian Assange. Image Courtesy: NDTV
Saying that "publishing is not a crime", major media organisations of the world have called for the United States government to end its prosecution of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange for publishing secrets.
The Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País, who had worked with Assange to publish excerpts of the documents in the Cablegate leak, have sent an open letter to the administration of President Joe Biden to drop the charges against Assange. They opposed the plans to charge Assange under a law aimed to prosecute first world war spies.
The group of editors and publishers at the five publications said in the letter that they had publicly criticised his conduct in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released. However, they have now come together now to express "grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials."
Assange has been fighting extradition since 2019 when he was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange is wanted in the United States on 18 criminal charges, including espionage, for publishing classified documents that detailed war crimes. If extradited, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
Around 250,000 documents, which were confidential cables from the US state department, were obtained by Assange in the “Cablegate” leak. The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then-American soldier Chelsea Manning and it exposed the inner workings of US diplomacy worldwide.
In the open letter, the publications said the position on indictment fo Assange changed under former US President Donald Trump when the DoJ relied on an old law, the Espionage Act of 1917, which had hitherto never been used against a publisher or broadcaster.
"This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press," the letter said.
Expressing their concerns over press freedom, the publishers further said, "Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalised, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker."
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