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CPJ, 20 other human rights organizations urge US Justice Dept to drop charges against WikiLeaks founder

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CPJ, together with 20 other human rights organizations, has urged the United States Department of Justice to drop charges against the founder of WikiLeaks.

Today, Friday 9, the organizations jointly sent a letter to the Biden administration to call for the U.S. Department of Justice to drop its criminal and extradition proceedings against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, under the Espionage Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Since 2010, CPJ has been urging the U.S. not to prosecute Assange.

“For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended,” CPJ’s director of special projects, Robert Mahoney, wrote in 2019.

In its December 2021 Summit for Democracy, the Biden administration pledged to support journalism.

Now, this joint letter one year later proposes a critical step: “removing the threat of prosecution under the Espionage Act now hanging over the heads of investigative journalists everywhere.”

Separately, on December 14, CPJ will release its annual census of journalists imprisoned worldwide.

The census records journalists known to be in custody as of December 1, 2022, and analyzes trends driving the sharp increase in the number of journalists behind bars in recent years. Last year’s census marked the sixth consecutive year that saw at least 250 journalists imprisoned for their work worldwide.

On December 5, CPJ hosted a panel event at our NYC headquarters to discuss press freedom in Hong Kong and the persecution of CPJ’s 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Awardee Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital Limited and the Apple Daily newspaper.

The panelists shared personal anecdotes about Lai, calling him “a troublemaker with a good conscience,” and spoke about Hong Kong’s legal landscape and the draconian charges Lai is facing.

“He voluntarily chose to stay in Hong Kong,” remarked international lawyer and former member of the Hong Kong legislature Dennis Kwok, “knowing that he [would] be locked away for a very long time.” Lai’s trial on national security charges is set to begin on December 13, and may lead to lifelong imprisonment. He turned 75 on December 8.

CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg has met with Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore, where she raised the urgent need for justice in the cases of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, imprisoned journalist José Ruben Zamora, and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who faces a barrage of legal threats for her journalism.

They also discussed how EU member states could strengthen their efforts to provide emergency visas to journalists at risk.

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