Publishing is not a crime’: media groups urge US to drop Julian Assange charges
First outlets to publish WikiLeaks material, including the Guardian, come 
together to oppose prosecution

The US government must drop its prosecution of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian 
Assange because it is undermining press freedom, according to the media 
organisations that first helped him publish leaked diplomatic cables.

Mon 28 Nov 2022

Twelve years ago today, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der 
Spiegel, and El País collaborated to release excerpts from 250,000 documents 
obtained by Assange in the “Cablegate” leak. The material, leaked to WikiLeaks 
by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning, exposed the inner workings of US 
diplomacy around the world.

The editors and publishers of the media organisations that first published 
those revelations have come together to publicly oppose plans to charge Assange 
under a law designed to prosecute first world war spies.

“Publishing is not a crime,” they said, saying the prosecution is a direct 
attack on media freedom.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since his arrest at 
the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019. He had spent the previous seven years 
living inside the diplomatic premises to avoid arrest after failing to 
surrender to a UK court on matters relating to a separate case.

The then UK home secretary, Priti Patel, approved Assange’s extradition to the 
US in June but his lawyers are appealing against this decision.

Under Barack Obama’s leadership, the US government indicated it would not 
prosecute Assange for the leak in 2010 because of the precedent it would set. 
The media outlets are now appealing to the administration of President Joe 
Biden – who was vice-president at that time – to drop the charges.

The full letter sent by the media organisations:

Publishing is not a crime: The US government should end its prosecution of 
Julian Assange for publishing secrets.

Twelve years ago, on November 28th 2010, our five international media outlets – 
the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel – published 
a series of revelations in cooperation with WikiLeaks that made the headlines 
around the globe.

“Cablegate”, a set of 251,000 confidential cables from the US state department, 
disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international 

In the words of the New York Times, the documents told “the unvarnished story 
of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the 
country most heavily in lives and money”. Even now in 2022, journalists and 
historians continue to publish new revelations, using the unique trove of 

For Julian Assange, publisher of WikLeaks, the publication of “Cablegate” and 
several other related leaks had the most severe consequences. On April 12th 
2019, Assange was arrested in London on a US arrest warrant, and has now been 
held for three and a half years in a high-security British prison usually used 
for terrorists and members of organised crime groups. He faces extradition to 
the US and a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison.

This group of editors and publishers, all of whom had worked with Assange, felt 
the need to publicly criticise his conduct in 2011 when unredacted copies of 
the cables were released, and some of us are concerned about the allegations in 
the indictment that he attempted to aid in computer intrusion of a classified 
database. But we come together now to express our grave concerns about the 
continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified 

The Obama-Biden administration, in office during the WikiLeaks publication in 
2010, refrained from indicting Assange, explaining that they would have had to 
indict journalists from major news outlets too. Their position placed a premium 
on press freedom, despite its uncomfortable consequences. Under Donald Trump 
however, the position changed. The DoJ relied on an old law, the Espionage Act 
of 1917 (designed to prosecute potential spies during world war one), which has 
never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.

This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine 
America’s first amendment and the freedom of the press.

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

Twelve years after the publication of “Cablegate”, it is time for the US 
government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.

Publishing is not a crime.

The editors and publishers of:
The New York Times
The Guardian
Le Monde
Der Spiegel
El País

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