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Publishing Is Not a Crime: NYT, The Guardian & More Urge Biden Admin to Drop Charges Against Assange

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The New York Times and four major European newspapers — The Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany and El País in Spain — recently urged the Biden administration to drop all charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In a joint letter, the newspapers said, “This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.” The letter ends with the words “Publishing is not a crime.” Assange, who is jailed in Britain, faces up to 175 years in a U.S. prison on espionage and hacking charges for exposing U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. The five publications had partnered with WikiLeaks in 2010 to report on documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. “The prosecution of Assange … would set a clear and devastating precedent in the United States that could be applied to any of these organizations’ journalists, going forward,” says Carrie DeCell, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Carrie DeCell, we just have a minute, but I wanted to ask you about Julian Assange. The New York Times and four major European newspapers — The Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France, Der Spiegel in Germany, El País in Spain — all have urged the Biden administration to drop all charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. In a joint letter, they said, “This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.” The letter ends with the words “Publishing is not a crime.” For those who don’t know, Julian Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. prison on espionage and hacking charges for exposing U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, if he’s extradited from Britain. The five publications partnered with WikiLeaks in 2010 to report on documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. The significance of these major newspapers, including The New York Times, demanding the Biden administration drop these charges?

CARRIE DECELL: Yes, I think this letter reflects a clear understanding by the press that the charges against Julian Assange threaten freedom of the press. The prosecution of Assange for soliciting, obtaining and then publishing classified information would set a clear and devastating precedent in the United States that could be applied to any of these organizations’ journalists, going forward. It is a significant threat to the work of national security reporters and investigative reporters who rely on leaks of government information to report on issues of utmost public interest.

AMY GOODMAN: Carrie DeCell, we want to thank you for being with us, senior staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia and the lead lawyer in the El Faro lawsuit, and Roman Gressier, El Faro English reporter, plaintiffs in that lawsuit against the NSO Group. And we’ll link it all at democracynow.org.

It is Election Day in Georgia. We’ll be back in 20 seconds.

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