The US government’s indictment of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange on 17 additional charges under the Espionage Act has shocked and horrified journalists who are calling it an unprecedented attack on press freedom.
The new indictment claims Assange endangered the lives of individuals working for the US government when Wikileaks published leaked documents received from intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010. Under the draconian Espionage Act, which has never before been used against a journalist publishing classified information, Assange faces up to 10 years in prison for each charge.
“Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning…in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense,” the Department of Justice said in a statement, while National Security Division head John Demers insisted “Julian Assange is no journalist.”
Actual journalists, however, were horrified by the “unprecedented assault on the First Amendment.”
This is the first time in history that anyone operating in a journalistic capacity has been charged under the Espionage Act. If you claim to be an advocate for “press freedom” yet cheer this outrageous, unprecedented assault on the First Amendment, you’re just a complete idiot
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) May 23, 2019
“This is the first time in history that anyone operating in a journalistic capacity has been charged under the Espionage Act,” Michael Tracey tweeted, adding in another tweet that the charges represented “the gravest attack on the First Amendment in years — possibly ever.” Even the Obama administration, which prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, ultimately opted not to pursue charges against Assange, concerned such prosecution would violate the First Amendment.
John Pilger didn’t mince words, declaring “Modern fascism is breaking cover” and warning mainstream media that they were next.
The war on Julian #Assange is now a war on all. Eighteen absurd charges including espionage send a burning message to every journalist, every publisher. The target today is #Assange. Tomorrow it will be you on the New York Times, you on the BBC. Modern fascism is breaking cover.