NEW YORK: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange today agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to obtain and disclose information related to the national defense in a U.S. federal court in Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth, according to news reports. The deal will allow him to avoid prison time in the U.S. and allow him to return to Australia.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“A plea deal would avert the worst-case scenario for press freedom, but this deal contemplates that Assange will have served five years in prison for activities that journalists engage in every day. It will cast a long shadow over the most important kinds of journalism, not just in this country but around the world.”

Earlier this year, the Knight Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and other press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland about the Assange extradition proceedings, urging the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange. Read the letter here.  

In 2020, Jaffer submitted expert testimony to a U.K. court about the press freedom implications of the Assange indictment. Read the testimony here

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, [email protected]