The U.S. government announced charges on Thursday against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, making him the first publisher in modern American history to be charged for revealing government secrets under the 1917 Espionage Act. Press freedom advocates immediately warned that the charges amount to an open assault on journalists by Donald Trump’s administration.
According to the New York Times, Assange is charged with 17 new counts related to receiving or disclosing material leaked by Chelsea Manning, then a military analyst, related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was taken back into custody last week—for the second time, after an initial detention of more than 60 days—for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury inquiry into her role with Wikileaks.
“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the indictment said, per the Times.
Regardless of how you feel about Assange, the man, defenders of press freedom have long warned that prosecuting him for his work connected to Wikileaks could pose a serious threat to the First Amendment and the work that journalists do.
For now, Assange awaits extradition to the U.S. British police arrested him in April after he was booted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’d been living for seven years, after Ecuador revoked his asylum.