From Consortium News
The indictment of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act has profoundly affected press coverage of the WikiLeaks founder, with much of the media turning suddenly and decisively in his favor after years of vilifying him.
The sharp change has also come from some politicians, and significantly, from two Justice Department prosecutors who went public to express their dissent about using the Espionage Act to indict Assange.
To the extent that public opinion matters, the sea-change in coverage could have an effect on the British or Swedish governments' decision to extradite Assange to the United States to face the charges.
Used to Be a Russian Agent
Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election establishment media, fueled by the Mueller probe, has essentially branded Assange a Russian agent who worked to undermine American democracy.
Focusing on his personality rather than his work, the media mostly cheered his arrest by British police on April 11 after his political asylum was illegally revoked by Ecuador in its London embassy.
Assange's initial indictment for conspiracy to intrude into a government computer was portrayed by corporate media as the work of a "hacker" and not a journalist, who doesn't merit First Amendment protection.
But the superseding indictment under the Espionage Act last Thursday has changed all that.
Rather than criminal activity, the indictment actually describes routine journalistic work, such as encouraging sources to turn over sensitive information and hiding a source's identity.
Since the Trump administration has crossed the red line criminalizing what establishment journalists do all the time, establishment journalists have come full-square against the indictment and behind Assange.
Leading liberal outlets, who until Wednesday openly despised Assange, began on Thursday to make 180-degree turns in their editorials, commentaries and news reports.
An editorial in The New York Times called the indictment "a marked escalation in the effort to prosecute Mr. Assange, one that could have a chilling effect on American journalism as it has been practiced for generations. It is aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment."
The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time.... This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.
The Times praised Assange's work:
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