LONDON—Today, the U.S. government provided assurances to a U.K. court that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be allowed to invoke the First Amendment if extradited to the U.S. to stand trial and he would not face the death penalty. The assurances were filed in response to a request made last month by the British High Court of Justice, which is considering whether to allow Assange to appeal a decision to extradite him to the U.S. under the Espionage Act.

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

“No one who cares about press freedom should take any comfort at all from the United States’ assurance that Assange will be permitted to ‘rely upon’ the First Amendment. If the prosecution goes forward, the U.S. government will be trying to persuade American courts that the First Amendment poses no bar to the prosecution of a publisher under the Espionage Act. And if the government is successful, no journalist will ever again be able to publish U.S. government secrets without risking her liberty. The government’s First Amendment assurances aren’t responsive at all to the concerns that press freedom advocates have been raising. This case poses the same threat to press freedom today as it did yesterday.”

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