Twelve years after the release of “Cablegate”, a set of 251,000 confidential cables from the US State Department, five international media outlets – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais, and DER SPIEGEL – have come together to express their concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange. The publication of “Cablegate” made headlines around the world and is still being used by journalists and historians for new revelations.
Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, was arrested in London in 2019 on a US arrest warrant and has been held in a high-security British prison for three and a half years. He faces extradition to the US and a potential sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum security prison.
The editors and publishers, who had worked with Assange in the past, criticize his conduct in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released but come together to express their grave concerns about the prosecution of Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials. The Obama-Biden Administration, which was in office during the publication of the cables, refrained from indicting Assange, citing press freedom as a priority. However, under the Trump Administration, the position changed and the Department of Justice relied on the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute Assange.
This indictment sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to undermine the freedom of the press and America’s First Amendment. Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information in the public interest is a crucial part of a journalist’s daily work and if it is criminalized, it weakens public discourse and democracies.
The international media outlets call for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange and state that publishing is not a crime. Holding governments accountable is at the core of a free press in a democracy and it is time for the US government to recognize this fundamental right.
The Letter can found at https://www.nytco.com/press/an-open-letter-from-editors-and-publishers-publishing-is-not-a-crime/