Julian Assange’s arrest spells Trump’s criminalisation of journalists


Julian Assange arrested//Getty

What Julian Assange’s arrest means for journalism//The Intercept

After Julian Assange’s arrest last month, we warned that it represented a major escalation in the U.S. government’s criminalization of journalism.

Now, for the first time in history, a publisher has been charged under the Espionage Act for revealing classified information. Every news organization — including The Intercept — is at risk.

The Intercept was launched in part as a platform for publishing the unauthorized disclosures of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yesterday’s indictment of Assange is an attack on the very principles of freedom of the press on which we were founded.

The Mueller beat has always been characterized by uncertainty: even excellent reporting has relied on a very incomplete picture. And what we do know sits within a vipers’ nest of double-crossing and deception.

Every day, we take pride in reporting, publishing, reading, and sharing fierce, adversarial investigative journalism on national security and other topics. We do this because we believe that this information needs to be public in order to hold the government and the powerful in check. These principles and freedom of the press are directly enshrined in the Constitution.

This indictment strikes at the heart of the First Amendment and the ideals of a democratic society. And the Trump administration has The Intercept in its crosshairs.

Journalism isn’t espionage. Being a journalistic source isn’t engaging in spying. And publishing information that lays bare government misconduct or war crimes is not espionage. When journalism is treated as a crime, we are all in danger. The Assange indictment is not the end of the WikiLeaks saga. It is the beginning of a major assault on freedom of the press.