Tag Archives: PRESS

Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warn

Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warnParts of the indictment go head-to-head with basic journalistic activities protected by the first amendment, academics say A protester outside Westminster magistrates court in London on 11 April. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The charge sheet accusing Julian Assange of engaging in criminal theft of US state secrets contains a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms and could have a devastating effect on the basic acts of journalism, leading first amendment scholars and advocacy groups have warned. Prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia released on Thursday an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder that has been under seal since March 2018. It will now form the basis of the US government’s request for Assange to be extradited from the UK to Alexandria to face trial. Academics and campaigners condemned large chunks of the indictment that they said went head-to-head with basic activities of journalism protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. They said these sections of the charges rang alarm bells that should reverberate around the world. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who wrote the first major legal study of the legal implications of prosecuting WikiLeaks, said the charge sheet contained some “very dangerous elements that pose significant risk to national security reporting. Sections of the indictment are vastly overbroad and could have a significant chilling effect – they ought to be rejected.” Carrie DeCell, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said the charges “risk having a chill on journalism”. She added that the tone of the indictment and the public release from the Department of Justice that went with it suggested that the US government desired precisely that effect. “Many of the allegations fall absolutely within the first amendment’s protections of journalistic activity. That’s very troubling to us.” Among the phrases contained in the indictment that have provoked an uproar are: “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” It is a basic function of journalism to encourage sources to provide information in the public interest on the activities of government. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks.” Protecting the anonymity of sources is the foundation stone of much investigative and national security reporting – without it sources would not be willing to divulge information, and the press would be unable to fulfill its role of holding power to account. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records.” The indictment similarly refers to a dropbox. Both Jabber and Dropbox are communication tools routinely used by journalists working with whistleblowers. A key element of the indictment is a new allegation that Assange actively engaged in helping Manning try to crack a password that allowed the US soldier to gain unauthorized and anonymous access to highly sensitive military computers. At the time, in 2010, Manning was working as an intelligence analyst at a forward operating base outside Baghdad. Experts on freedom of the press and speech were generally more relaxed about that narrow charge, standing on its own, in that it essentially accuses Assange of violating computer hacking laws – specifically the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – in a way that has no first amendment protection. If prosecutors succeed in presenting evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to that effect, it is unlikely to arouse fierce opposition across the board. Bradley P Moss, deputy executive of the James Madison Project, a public-interest group focusing on US intelligence and national security, said he was unflustered by the hacking allegation. “I have no concerns about the broader ramifications for press freedoms, whether in the US or elsewhere. What Julian Assange did is what journalists are trained not to do.” But fears for the chilling impact of the prosecution were rampant. The Center for Constitutional Rights, whose late president Michael Ratner was Assange’s lawyer in the US, warned that the threat posed by the indictment was increased by having a president in the White House hostile to the media. “This is a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’,” it said. Two advocacy groups working in the field of press freedom also waded in. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the wording of the charges contained “broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest”. Freedom of the Press Foundation said: “Whether or not you like Assange, the charge against him is a serious press freedom threat and should be vigorously protested by all those who care about the first amendment.”



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What Does the Assange Arrest Mean for Press Freedoms in America?

What Does the Assange Arrest Mean for Press Freedoms in America?Julian Assange was arrested in London this morning, emerging after more than six and half years from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been granted asylum in August 2012. Originally welcomed by leftist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Assange’s status has been in negotiation for almost a year by centrist President Lenin Moreno who took office in 2017. Moreno had cut off Assange’s internet connection in the embassy in March 2018, making communication with the outside world difficult. Assange founded Wikileaks, a public archive of leaked government documents, in 2006 and served as its editor for over a decade. In this capacity, Wikileaks has published war logs for both the Iraq and Afghan wars, U.S. State Department diplomatic cables and emails from the Democratic National Committee. The now-public documents have broken numerous new stories, from war crimes in Iraq to corruption at the DNC. While its defenders point to its record of accuracy and use of widely-accepted journalistic norms for obtaining classified documents, Wikileaks’ detractors consider it, in the words of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “a non-state hostile intelligence service.”



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Democrats press Barr over Trump's war on Obamacare

Democrats press Barr over Trump's war on ObamacareAttorney General William Barr was pressed on the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that, if it prevails, would cause millions of Americans to lose their health care coverage.



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US State Department under fire for secrecy surrounding 'faith-based media' press conference

US State Department under fire for secrecy surrounding 'faith-based media' press conferenceThe US State Department has raised concerns among the American press after conducting a conference call exclusively with “faith based media” outlets. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo reportedly participated in the Monday afternoon press call. Reporters from networks across the country are typically provided the opportunity to listen to these State Department calls and ask questions about news developments and upcoming announcements.



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Trump attacks on press 'dangerous' and 'reckless': NYT publisher

Trump attacks on press 'dangerous' and 'reckless': NYT publisherUS President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press are “reckless” and “dangerous” and threaten to encourage violence against journalists at home and abroad, the publisher of The New York Times warned on Wednesday. “America’s founders believed that a free press was essential to democracy because it is the foundation of an informed, engaged citizenry,” A.G. Sulzberger said in a statement. Previous US presidents “had complaints about their coverage and at times took advantage of the freedom every American has to criticize journalists,” Sulzberger said.



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White House press secretary Sarah Sanders questioned by investigators probing Russian election meddling

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders questioned by investigators probing Russian election meddlingRobert Mueller‘s team has questioned Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary has confirmed. In a statement to CNN, Ms Sanders, 36, said she had been questioned last year by the special counsel probing Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. “The president urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel,” she said.



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Turkey, others to press for UN probe into Khashoggi killing

Turkey, others to press for UN probe into Khashoggi killingANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey and other countries will soon submit a formal request to establish a U.N. committee to investigate the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Turkish foreign minister said Friday.



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US hits Venezuela with oil sanctions to press Maduro exit

US hits Venezuela with oil sanctions to press Maduro exitWASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration imposed sanctions Monday on the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, a potentially critical economic move aimed at increasing pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition in the South American nation.



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Trump cancels U.S. delegation to Davos forum: press secretary

Trump cancels U.S. delegation to Davos forum: press secretaryPresident Donald Trump has canceled his delegation’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week due to the partial U.S. government shutdown, according to a statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday. Trump, who attended last year’s Davos event, had planned to go again this year but pulled out last week as he grapples with Democrats in Congress over funding for a wall on the border with Mexico that has led to a partial shutdown of the government. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were expected to lead the U.S. delegation in Trump’s place, two senior administration officials said this week.



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Secretary of State Pompeo to press Saudi Arabia to provide a 'credible narrative' on Jamal Khashoggi's murder

Secretary of State Pompeo to press Saudi Arabia to provide a 'credible narrative' on Jamal Khashoggi's murderCritics don't expect a forceful reprimand of the Saudis from Pompeo. Some experts said the real audience for his message on Khashoggi may be Congress.



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