Press Freedom Coalition says DOJ must drop Assange case after CIA plot revelation

A coalition of more than two dozen press freedom groups on Monday escalated an earlier appeal demanding that the US Department of Justice drop charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying the demand is now still more urgent due to recent reports that the CIA conspired to kidnap. and maybe kill – the reporter.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday, groups such as the Knight First Amendment Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Reporters Without Borders said the government’s prosecution of Assange American is “a threat to press freedom.” around the globe. “

“We understand that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting good faith national security interests, but the prosecution of Mr. Assange jeopardizes journalism which is crucial to democracy,” the organizations wrote. “In our opinion, a precedent set by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists, crippling their work and undermining press freedom. “

As Common dreams reported last month, under former President Donald Trump, the CIA reportedly discussed the kidnapping or assassination of Assange, who is currently imprisoned in Belmarsh maximum security prison in London.

“The actions described in the indictment are virtually indistinguishable from common practices in newspapers across the country.”

Yahoo News first reported revelations that officials at the “highest level” of the agency were considering attacking Assange, as well as “spying on WikiLeaks associates on a large scale, sowing discord among members of the group and steal their electronic devices “.

“In February, members of this coalition wrote to the acting attorney general, urging that the criminal charges against Mr. Assange be dropped,” the groups said. “We now renew this request with even greater urgency, in light of recent history in Yahoo News describing alarming discussions within the CIA and the Trump administration. “

The letter comes two months after the Biden administration won an appeal to the UK High Court in its case to extradite Assange. Earlier this year, Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled that the extradition would be “oppressive because of Assange’s sanity” and endanger the life of the WikiLeaks founder because of the conditions in the American prisons.

Assange is accused in the United States of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for publishing classified U.S. military documents revealing U.S. war crimes.

After news outlets around the work published countless reports based on information provided by Assange and WikiLeaks, the coalition wrote on Monday that “journalists routinely engage in much of the behavior described in the act. accusation: speak with sources, seek clarification or further documentation, and receive and publish official secrets.

“News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public about matters of deep public importance,” the defenders wrote.

As former intelligence consultant and press freedom advocate Edward Snowden tweeted on Monday, the case against Assange “criminalizes the kind of journalism you read in the newspaper every week.”

The Freedom of the Press Foundation noted Monday that last year it identified the US government’s prosecution of Assange as “the most dangerous press freedom issue.”

“The actions described in the indictment are virtually indistinguishable from common practices in newspapers across the country. This is exactly why the two The New York Times and The Washington Post– themselves who are not fans of Assange – have denounced the charges against him in the strongest terms, ”wrote Parker Higgins, director of advocacy for the group.

“And that is why all those who cherish our rights to freedom of the press should do so too,” he added.

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