In a not too surprising move, the Department of Justice indicted Julian Assange on 18 charges. This will prove to be an interesting case. The case touches on freedom of the press vs national security. According to the indictment, Assange actively solicited classified information and gained unlawful access to government records. The release of those records allegedly endangered national security.
Each count holds up to ten years in prison. If the maximum sentence is imposed Assange could face 180 years in prison.
“This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the first amendment,” WikiLeaks tweeted shortly after the new charges were announced.
Edward Snowden tweeted that the “Department of Justice just declared war” on journalism. “This is no longer about Julian Assange: This case will decide the future of media.”
History of Journalism
Historically the U.S. Government has never had much success going after civilians for the release of leaked classified documents. The government rarely pursues journalist for releasing classified information as it happens quite often.
“This amount’s to political assassination of character. A reporter being charged with a crime for uncovering a crime is proof that freedom of the press is dead in the United States,” says Professor Stanton Cohen.
But what about Britain?
In Britain, a judge sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison. Assange is likely to be extradited to the United States to stand trial upon his release. Journalist everywhere are concerned about what this trial will mean for freedom of the press and the protections guaranteed by the US Constitution.
I find no satisfaction in saying ‘I told you so’ to those who for 9 years have scorned us for warning this moment would come. I care for journalism. If you share my feeling you take a stand NOW. Either you are a worthless coward or you defend Assange, WikiLeaks and Journalism. https://t.co/NkUfZWYan8
— Kristinn Hrafnsson (@khrafnsson) May 23, 2019