Assange deal ‘sets dangerous precedent’ says group

Jun 28, 2024 at 05:30 pm by admin

It might be good for Julian Assange, but the plea bargain which saw him return free to Australia is bad for journalism.

That’s the view of WAN-Ifra, which says the plea deal sets a potentially dangerous precedent.

The WikiLeaks founder pleaded guilty to a single charge under the US espionage act of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defence information. He had originally faced 17 counts under that act and one under the computer fraud and abuse act, and would have faced 175 years in prison if convicted.

Human rights and press freedom groups called on the US government to publicly state that it would not pursue journalists for carrying out their work, including the assurance that non-American journalists would be protected under the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech in the US.

The first amendment does not currently protect journalists from other countries.

In a statement, WAN-Ifra said the plea deal set a “potentially dangerous precedent” and, without further assurances, risks posing a significant threat to journalists and whistleblowers who obtain or disclose public interest information.

“National security legislation is frequently misused or misinterpreted to silence journalism and criminalise journalists; for media organisations, it can be a regular minefield navigating the many provisions such legislation contains.

“Furthermore, the sweeping application of these types of laws – originally designed to combat terrorism, protect national interests, and ensure public safety – leaves them open to shocking abuse.”

The association called on the US and other governments to make “firm assurances” that public interest journalism would be “recognised and protected as such and, going forward, journalists and the act of doing journalism will not be targeted as a threat to national security.”

Pictured: Julian Assange arrives at Canberra airport (Photo WAN-Ifra/Roni Bintang/Getty Images)

Sections: Newsmedia industry


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