WASHINGTON, D.C. – Five international media organizations are publically requesting that the United States end its prosecution of Julian Assange – Australian editor, publisher, and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006 – amid accusations that he leaked secrets.
WikiLeaks gained international attention in 2010 when it published a series of leaks provided by a U.S. Army intelligence analyst. These leaks included the Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, and a quarter of a million U.S. diplomatic cables in an incident known as “Cablegate.” After the leaks, the U.S. government launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange.
In addition, during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, WikiLeaks published confidential Democratic Party emails, and in March 2017, the website published documents detailing the CIA’s electronic surveillance and cyber warfare capabilities.
The five media outlets – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel – released a joint open letter on Monday to the United States administration, saying that “publishing is not a crime.”
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“We come together now to express our grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials,” the statement said. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker. Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate,’ it is time for the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.”
After seeking asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London in 2012 while attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual misconduct, Assange was finally arrested on a U.S. warrant in April 2019; he faces extradition to the U.S. and a sentence of up to 175 years in a maximum-security prison under charges brought against him by the Trump Administration relating to the Espionage Act of 1917.