February 23, 2023 — All over the country, students and universities will be hosting events focused on the threat to freedom of the press for Student Press Freedom Day. Nothing represents this threat better than the unprecedented prosecution against Julian Assange. In Boston and Chicago, Assange Defense chapters will hold open events to discuss the impacts of Assange’s case on the future of the free press.
In the United States and around the world, freedom of speech and the press are under attack. One of the biggest examples of this is the case against Julian Assange. Assange is fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces unprecedented charges that carry up to 175 years in prison. For the first time in history, the U.S. Justice Department is charging a journalist under the controversial Espionage Act of 1917. The United Nations has declared Julian Assange “arbitrarily detained” since 2010.
“The case against Julian Assange could spell the end of investigative journalism for the next generation of reporters, editors, and publishers before they even have a chance to graduate,” said Nathan Fuller, director of the Assange Defense Committee. “This prosecution would fundamentally alter the relationship between the people and the government, by eliminating an essential avenue of accountability, and that’s what these students are standing up and speaking out against. It’s really inspiring to see and hear from young people who care about these issues and I hope these rallies and panels are the first of many for those who’ve started participating in events like these today.”
“The prosecution of Julian Assange would criminalize national security journalism and send a chilling message to journalists that they disclose government secrets at their peril,” said attorney Marjorie Cohn, member of the national advisory board of Assange Defense and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. “Assange would be punished for doing what journalists do – protect confidential sources and publish classified secrets to tell us what our government is doing in our name.”
Press freedom and human rights groups have condemned the U.S. extradition efforts. And now, future journalists and lawyers are taking on the mantle, calling on President Biden to honor his word to protect press freedom and to free Julian Assange.
“If the Trump/Biden prosecution against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange under the infamous Espionage Act of 1917 succeeds, the next generation of journalists will face an unprecedented era of intimidation, repression and censorship, denying the American public vital information about government wrongdoing, ” said Stephen Rohde, former chair of ACLU SoCal and author of American Words of Freedom.