Someone holds a sign that reads "Hands off Assange: Don't shoot the messenger"
A supporter of Julian Assange displays a placard, outside the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, Britain April 20, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

CPJ and partners call on US to drop charges against Julian Assange

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Today, CPJ and 20 other human rights organizations 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.

CPJ has been urging the U.S. not to prosecute Assange since 2010, and CPJ’s director of special projects, Robert Mahoney, wrote in 2019 that, “for the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”

The Biden administration pledged to support journalism in its December 2021 Summit for Democracy. 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.

Editors can request a copy of the census by contacting [email protected]. CPJ experts are also available for interviews in multiple languages.

Global press freedom updates


On December 5, CPJ hosted a panel ahead of the trial of Hong Kong media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai. From left to right: Mark Clifford, president of The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation; former CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter (standing); international lawyer Dennis Kwok; Doughty Street Chambers barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC; Lai’s son, Sebastien Lai (on screen); and Matthew Caruana Galizia, director of the Daphne Foundation (Photo by CPJ).

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.

Watch the full panel discussion on YouTube and view more photos from the event on Flickr.

Last week, CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg traveled to Brussels, where she met with European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová to discuss ongoing media reforms by the EU and key initiatives to improve journalist safety.

Ginsberg also met with EU 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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