NY Times, four other news outlets urge U.S. to drop espionage charges against Assange

Assange was arrested in London in 2019 on a U.S. warrant and has been held in a high-security prison in the U.K. ever since.

Updated: November 28, 2022 - 10:47am

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The New York Times and four other major media outlets that first helped WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange publish sensitive U.S. government documents sent a letter on Monday to federal prosecutors urging them to stop prosecuting him.  

Assange as a result publishing the documents faces 18 federal charges of espionage and remain a fugitive in Sweden.

The open letter, titled "Publishing is Not a Crime," was signed by the editors and publishers of The Times, The Guardian, the French outlet Le Monde, the German outlet Der Spiegel and the Spanish paper El Pais. 

The news agencies all received 251,000 confidential State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks from then-U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning. The outlets published the documents exactly 12 years ago Monday.

"Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists," the outlets wrote. "If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker."

Assange was arrested in London in 2019 on a U.S. warrant and has been held in a high-security prison in the U.K. ever since.

He faces extradition to the United States to stand trial for the hacking-related offenses and violating the 1917 Espionage Act.

If Assange is convicted, he could serve up to 175 years in prison.

The five news outlets said Assange's "indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press."

The British government in June ordered for Assange to be extradited to the U.S. His attorneys are appealing the decision.

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