The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is closely monitoring news reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has secretly filed charges against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
“We are closely monitoring reports that prosecutors have prepared a sealed indictment against Julian Assange,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, CPJ’s North America program coordinator.
“While the charges are not known, we would be concerned by a prosecution that construes publishing government documents as a crime. This would set a dangerous precedent that could harm all journalists, whether inside or outside the United States.”
According to New York Times, the Justice Department has secretly filed criminal charges against Julian Assange, a person familiar with the case said, a drastic escalation of the government’s yearslong battle with him and his anti-secrecy group.
Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing, in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.
Assange has lived for years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and would have to be arrested and extradited if he were to face charges in federal court, altogether a multistep diplomatic and legal process.
In 2010, CPJ sent a letter to the Obama administration urging officials not to charge Assange for the publication of classified materials. This year, CPJ reported on experts’ concerns over a civil law suit filed by the Democratic National Committee, which argues that Assange and WikiLeaks were involved in a criminal conspiracy to hack the committee’s servers during the 2016 election.