I am honoured to be one of the 101 initial signatories of the below open letter to President Trump demanding the end of the persecution of Julian Assange and Wikileaks for its essential publishing and journalistic work. Other signatories include Noam Chomsky, Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Ken Loach, Mairead Maguire, Oliver Stone, Patti Smith, Slavoj Zizek and Yanis Varoufakis, as well as all the leading lights of the whistleblower community.
Dear President Trump,
We are journalists, activists and citizens from the United States and around the world who care about press freedom and are writing to you in response to the latest threat of prosecution against WikiLeaks for its journalistic work. We ask you to immediately close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges against Julian Assange and other Wikileaks staff members which the Department of Justice is planning.
This threat to WikiLeaks escalates a long-running war of attrition against the great virtue of the United States — free speech. The Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than all presidents combined and opened a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks that had no precedent. It now appears the US is preparing to take the next step — prosecuting publishers who provide the “currency” of free speech, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson. It is reported that charges, including conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act are being considered against members of WikiLeaks, and that charging WikiLeaks Editor, Julian Assange, is now a priority of the Department of Justice.
A threat to WikiLeaks’ work — which is publishing information protected under the First Amendment — is a threat to all free journalism. If the DOJ is able to convict a publisher for its journalistic work, all free journalism can be criminalised.
We call on you as President of the United States to close the Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and drop any charges planned against any member of WikiLeaks. It was a free and robust press that provided you with a platform on which to run for president. Defending a truly free press requires freedom from fear and favour and the support of journalists and citizens everywhere; for the kind of threat now facing WikiLeaks — and all publishers and journalists — is a step into the darkness.