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Charge against Julian Assange threatens core press freedoms

Freedom of the Press Foundation

Dear Friend:
Welcome back to the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s newsletter! We’ve collected some of the most important news about press freedom from the last couple weeks. If you enjoy reading our newsletter, please forward it to friends and family in your circles and tell them to subscribe.

Today, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was arrested by British authorities after Ecuador terminated his asylum status. He has been charged for alleged conspiracy with whistleblower Chelsea Manning under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the US will seek extradition from the UK government.

The charge Assange faces is a serious threat to core press freedom rights, and should be vigorously protested by all who care about the First Amendment—even those who may dislike Assange for his publications or political views. Part of the argument of the indictment against Assange describes routine journalistic interactions with sources as evidence of “conspiracy.” The ability to use an encrypted chat messenger or try to keep a source’s identity anonymous are critical to press freedom, yet are portrayed as criminal in nature by the Trump Justice Department.

The Trump administration has so far not attempted to explicitly declare the act of publishing illegal, which is a serious concern of prosecution against Assange, but the charge, as it stands, still has huge implications for journalists.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted, the charge Assange faces is “still, at root, an attack on the publication of leaked material and the most recent act in an almost decade-long effort to punish a whistleblower and the publisher of her leaked material.”

Read Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm’s statement on Assange’s arrest and potential extradition here.

The role of journalism in our democracy matters now more than ever. If you care about the future of an independent media, please consider donating to Freedom of the Press Foundation today, and enable our work protecting press freedom.

The Team at Freedom of the Press Foundation

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