WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged on Thursday with 17 new criminal counts under the Espionage Act brought by the U.S. Justice Department, a move that could change the dynamics of press freedom in the United States. Assange had previously been charged for an attempt to help Chelsea Manning crack a government password when she was sharing classified information with WikiLeaks. But the new charges attempt to criminalize Assange’s efforts to solicit and disseminate classified material, a practice that is arguably identical to the work of many reporters. Many advocates of press freedom have long worried that the U.S. government could take such a step, threatening common journalistic practice, and critics of Assange’s initial indictment warned that worse was yet to come.
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Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a Managing Editor for OpEd News, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites.