News Groups Urge US to Drop Assange Charges

Twelve years on from publishing the “Cablegate” disclosures alongside WikiLeaks, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País on Monday issued a joint letter urging the US government to drop its prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

News Groups Urge US to Drop Assange Charges
Image credit: Getty Images [via The Guardian]

Facts

  • Twelve years on from publishing the “Cablegate” disclosures alongside WikiLeaks, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País on Monday issued a joint letter urging the US government to drop its prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
  • Assange has been incarcerated in Britain since 2019. Before that, he spent much of the past decade under house arrest or as a political asylee in Ecuador's London embassy. He is wanted in the US on 17 charges of spying and on an allegation of conspiring to commit computer intrusion. If extradited, he could face up to 175 years in a maximum security penitentiary.
  • In addition to documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the charges against Assange relate to WikiLeaks' 2010 publication of the "Cablegate" files – more than 250K US diplomatic cables from American embassies all over the globe.
  • In their letter, the five publications wrote that the files "disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale," and stated that prosecuting a journalist for disclosing these documents violates the First Amendment in the US and sets a dangerous precedent.
  • "Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists," they said. "If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker."

Sources: Guardian, Reuters, and New York Times.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Al Jazeera. Assange is a journalist and should have the protections journalists possess in any functioning democracy to reveal corruption and deceit at the highest levels of government. The attempted prosecution of Assange is not only a grave injustice, but a serious threat to press freedoms more broadly.
  • Narrative B, as provided by FOX News. Assange is not a journalist, he is a spy leading an intelligence agency that has provided sensitive information to enemies of the US. He doesn't care about national security or about the lives he has put at risk, even having deemed them "collateral damage." Suggesting constitutional rights should protect his un-American and illegal activities is a gross misrepresentation.

Predictions