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Help save the First Amendment 

The High Court in London is hearing arguments this week on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing secret documents from a source — also known as journalism.

Whatever you may think of Assange the person, his potential prosecution and conviction in the United States would forever change journalism here. Investigative reporters and their lawyers would have to consider the risk of jail time for journalistic conduct previously considered routine. Under those conditions, self-censorship is a virtual certainty. 

We’re doing everything we can to urge the Department of Justice to drop the Espionage Act charges against Assange ahead of his potential extradition. You can help. 

  • We hosted a webinar last featuring discussion of the case from leading experts, Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, Carrie DeCell of the Knight First Amendment Institute, and our own Trevor Timm. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern — who led one of two recent letters from lawmakers urging the DOJ to drop the case — gave opening remarks. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it here.
  • At the close of the webinar, we premiered our new video highlighting the unique threat of giving Donald Trump a license to prosecute journalists under the Espionage Act should he get a second term. But Trump is far from the only problem. About half the administrations since Richard Nixon’s have contemplated indicting reporters under the Espionage Act. They ultimately didn’t pull the trigger, but if the Assange case sets a precedent, a future president will, whether it’s Trump or someone else.
  • We helped lead a letter from almost 40 law professors to the DOJ highlighting the threat to the First Amendment posed by the Assange case. One of the signers, James Goodale, was general counsel for The New York Times when the Nixon administration almost indicted its reporter, Neil Sheehan, for publishing the Pentagon Papers. Goodale said that based on that experience, “I am confident that a successful prosecution of Julian Assange would lead to similar charges against journalists from newspapers like the Times when they uncover secrets that embarrass officials.”
  • Our deputy advocacy director, Caitlin Vogus, wrote an article for our website explaining how the same Espionage Act theories the government is using to prosecute Assange could also enable prosecutions of the journalists behind important recent reporting revealing government secrets.  

Now, we’re calling on you to help. Visit https://freedom.press/assange to find out how you can tell the White House and DOJ to drop this dangerous anti-press prosecution. There, you can also find suggested social media posts and emails, as well as all the resources discussed above and plenty more. You can also share our video directly to X, formerly Twitter, by clicking here

As we’ve said before, the people best positioned to make a difference at this stage are members of the nation’s editorial boards. We encourage everyone to write letters to the editor of their local newspapers urging them to write editorials about the dangers of prosecuting Assange. You can refer to our op-ed guide for some tips. 

Please help out however you can. The First Amendment is on the line.  

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