Edward Snowden and over 100 other activists called for President Trump to drop charges brought against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Guardian reports that over 100 activists have signed an open letter calling for President Trump to drop any possible charges being brought against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “A threat to WikiLeaks’ work — which is publishing information protected under the First Amendment — is a threat to all free journalism,” the open letter reads.
The open letter, created by the Courage Foundation, warns that criminalizing a journalist or their work can lead to the criminalization of all journalism. “If the DoJ is able to convict a publisher for its journalistic work, all free journalism can be criminalized,” the letter claims. The Courage Foundation is a supporter of whistleblowers, raising funds to cover the legal costs of individuals such as Edward Snowden.
“We call on you as President of the United States to close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges planned against any member of WikiLeaks,” the letter reads. “It was a free and robust press that provided you with a platform on which to run for president.”
“Defending a truly free press requires freedom from fear and favour and the support of journalists and citizens everywhere; for the kind of threat now facing WikiLeaks — and all publishers and journalists — is a step into the darkness,” it continues.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked at a press conference in April if arresting Julian Assange was a priority for the Trump administration, to which Sessions replied, “We are going to step up our effort, and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks.”
“This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks, and some of them are quite serious,” he continued to say. “So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”
Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, has argued that prosecuting Assange could set a dangerous precedent. “Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public,” Wizner told CNN in April. “Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.”