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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/13/19

Assange's indictment is Trump's next step in his war on press freedom

Message Trevor Timm
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From The Guardian

The case against the WikiLeaks founder is the justice department's perfect vehicle to ultimately get what Trump wants

WikiLeaks briefing on criminal case involving Julian Assange
WikiLeaks briefing on criminal case involving Julian Assange
Image by YouTube, Channel: Guardian News)   Details   DMCA

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is so disliked in journalism and political circles that many reporters and liberal politicians were publicly cheering on Thursday when the Trump administration released an indictment of Assange, which was related to his interactions with the whistleblower Chelsea Manning in the months leading up to the publication of Pentagon and state department cables in 2010.

Please do not fall for this trap. It is exactly what the Trump administration is hoping for, as the Department of Justice (DoJ) moves forward with its next dangerous step in its war on journalism and press freedom.

The larger context surrounding this case is almost as important as the Assange indictment itself. Donald Trump has been furious with leakers and the news organizations that publish them ever since he took office. He complains about it constantly in his Twitter tirades. He has repeatedly directed the justice department to stop leaks, and he even asked former FBI director James Comey if he can put journalists in jail.

The justice department has responded by launching a record number of leak cases and have weighed changing the rules to make it easier to subpoena journalists.

But officials at the justice department aren't so stupid as to overtly act on the president's most controversial musings and immediately attempt to prosecute New York Times or Washington Post reporters. Give them more credit than that. If they were to do so, the public backlash would be so overwhelming that, even if their case did not fall apart before trial, a judge would almost certainly put an end to it.

There are other, more methodical ways for the justice department to ultimately get what Trump wants, and the case against Assange is their perfect vehicle.

What's the most effective way to curtail the rights of all people? First go after the unpopular; the person who may be despised in society and will have very few defenders. Assange fits this profile to a T. Once there is law on the books that says "this aspect of journalism is illegal," it becomes much easier for the justice department to bring other cases against more mainstream government critics down the road, and much harder for judges to immediately dismiss them.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)

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