Julian Assange case may have serious implications for journalists
Last updated 6/8/2022 at 4:38pm
Some consider Julian Assange a traitor, while others support him as a hero for his aid to government corruption whistleblowers worldwide. His years-long hiding out in an Ecuadorian embassy and then the UK to evade extradition to the U.S. for exposing CIA and military secrets could be justice or a blow to the free press, depending on your point of view.
The U.S. would like to lock him up for 175 years. It's one of the most controversial cases of our time and very important to journalism with possible far reaching implications.
There have been crowds outside wherever he's been staying and politicians on TV asking for him to be killed.
He's an Australian hacker who built Wikileaks 10 years ago. He's known for breaking into computers which he wasn’t supposed to have access to and getting access to files which he thought the world needed to see to expose government corruption and injustice.
He built Wikileaks so that whistleblowers worldwide would have somewhere to put their information, reports and files. Well, people started giving him files to put online including drone strikes in Yemen, scandals in Peru, corruption in the Arab world, Tibetan uprisings etc.
In 2010, an intelligence officer in Iraq, now known as Chelsea Manning, horrified by what she was seeing, including innocent people and children being targeted and blown up, downloaded classified files and uploaded them to the whistleblower site. She was later arrested and convicted and spent 7 years in prison.
The Hillary Clinton emails and John Podesta files were also dumped on Wikileaks which ended up helping Clinton to lose the Presidency.
The Trump administration decided to pursue Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act which is meant for American military or government employees who get access to files and expose them. The problem is Assange is neither American nor military.
Assange is being pursued for aiding Manning because he published the whistleblowers files. Because he communicated the documents to the world and published them. But wait, major newspapers do this every day.
This has potentially far reaching implications for journalists who publish whistleblower documents and expose corruption. Newspapers allow their contacts who come to them in the public interest to remain anonymous every day in this country.
This case could have a chilling and dangerous effect on free speech and transparency put into place by our founding fathers who knew it was unique and crucial to hold our government and businesses accountable through journalism – real journalism. The kind that takes risk and exposes corruption.
The Biden administration continues to try and get Assange extradited to the US.
This case needs to be watched carefully because it will have negative ramifications on journalism overall.