In a truly shocking development, Trump’s Justice Department has indicted WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for publishing secret government documents under the Espionage Act of 1917.
The Espionage Act, originally intended for use against spies, has been wielded against sources of journalists and whistleblowers in recent decades, but never a publisher. No matter your personal feelings about Assange, these new charges against him are unprecedented, terrifying, and strike at the heart of fundamental press freedom rights.
Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm issued the following statement:
Put simply, these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century. The Trump administration is moving to explicitly criminalize national security journalism, and if this prosecution proceeds, dozens of reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere would also be in danger. The ability of the press to publish facts the government would prefer remain secret is both critical to an informed public and a fundamental right. This decision by the Justice Department is a massive and unprecedented escalation in Trump’s war on journalism, and it’s no exaggeration to say the First Amendment itself is at risk. Anyone who cares about press freedom should immediately and wholeheartedly condemn these charges.
Freedom of the Press Foundation will have much more on this story as it develops.