I’m Scott Nover. Welcome back to Pressing, a newsletter about press freedom. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here and receive this letter in your inbox every Tuesday morning.
This is the 62nd issue of Pressing and it’s great to have you with me. Please send me feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assange Extradition Denied—But Not Because of Press Freedom Threat
The new year started with a long-awaited verdict with real implications for press freedom in the United States and around the world. A British judge ruled Monday that Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange will not be extradited to the U.S., where he faces charges of violating the Espionage Act as well as conspiracy to hack government computers.
However, the press freedom and human rights communities, concerned about threats to those seeking to publish government secrets, were pleased with the decision but disappointed with the rationale.
The judge said that Assange was at risk of suicide if placed in the U.S. prison system. While that’s certainly a valid concern, she affirmed that the American government was operating in “good faith” in its prosecution of Assange.
“We are immensely relieved that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the U.S.,” Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement. “At the same time, we are extremely disappointed that the court failed to take a stand for press freedom and journalistic protections, and we disagree with the judge’s assessment that the case was not politically motivated and was not centered on journalism and free speech. This decision leaves the door open for further similar prosecutions and will have a chilling effect on national security reporting around the world if the root issues are not addressed.”
The Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Trevor Timm tweeted that it’s “hard to call this a true victory for press freedom, given the judge’s disregard for journalists’ rights” but it’s a “huge sigh of relief.”
“If the U.S. can't prosecute Assange, it means there won't [be] precedent criminalizing newsgathering,” he added. “And that's a very good thing.”
Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, tweeted that the decision would “cast a shadow over investigative journalism,” specifically that, “merely by publishing classified secrets,” Assange violated the Espionage Act.
The chorus of voices from the press freedom community was clear. No matter what you think of Assange or his organization, the implications for the First Amendment, should he have been extradited and charged, would be dire. And it’s not exactly over yet—the U.S. government plans to appeal in the next two weeks.
The New York Times: U.K. Judge Blocks Assange’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Mental Health (Elian Peltier and Megan Specia)
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In the News:
The Guardian: Turkey sentences journalist Can Dündar to 27 years in jail (Bethan McKernan)
The Guardian: Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee urges Joe Biden to release CIA report (Stephanie Kirchgaessner)
The Intercept: Hiding Covid-19: How the Trump Administration Suppresses Photography of the Pandemic (Peter Maass)
Law & Crime: Judge Throws Potential Wrench into Sarah Palin’s Suit Against the New York Times, Finds Anti-SLAPP Law Can Be Applied (Adam Klasfeld)
The New York Times: An Oscar Winner Made a Khashoggi Documentary. Streaming Services Didn’t Want It. (Nicole Sperling)
The New York Times: The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media (Ben Smith)
NBC News: Former Rep. Katie Hill sues ex-husband, Daily Mail, Redstate.com over 'nonconsensual porn' (Andrew Blankstein)
NPR: Biden's Incoming Press Secretary: Briefings Won't Be A Platform For Right-Wing Spin (Steve Inskeep)
NPR: Trump Appointee Seeks Lasting Control Over Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia (David Folkenflik)
Voice of America: Journalism Collective Finds Safety in Collaboration (Graham Vyse)
The Washington Post: Trump appointee names conservative allies to run Radio Free Europe and Cuba broadcast agency (Paul Farhi)
The Washington Post: Targeted killings of journalists are on the rise across Afghanistan (Sharif Hassan)
The Washington Post: Trump administration weighing legal immunity for Saudi crown prince in alleged assassination plot (Spencer S. Hsu and Kareem Fahim)
The Opinion Pages:
CNN: Just let journalists do our jobs (Nima Elbagir)
The Washington Post: How Biden can undo damage to U.S.-backed news outlets that counter authoritarian propaganda (Jamie Fly)
The Washington Post: Biden’s promises to give Jamal Khashoggi justice will be tested soon (Josh Rogin)
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