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24 May, 2019 23:53

'Huge threat to First Amendment': US seeks to intimidate reporters by indicting Assange – journalist

'Huge threat to First Amendment': US seeks to intimidate reporters by indicting Assange – journalist

The prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is nothing but an intimidation campaign waged by the US to discourage journalists from revealing Washington's dirty secrets, journalist Cassandra Fairbanks told RT.

The US is apparently seeking to lock Assange away for the rest of his life as an example for all other journalists around the world to see, Fairbanks said, commenting on the latest indictment against the whistleblower announced by a federal grand jury. Each of the 17 additional charges introduced under the Espionage Act carries a 10-year prison sentence, meaning that the Wikileaks founder could face up to 175 years in jail in total.

Fairbanks believes Assange might actually face a much more gruesome fate.

"I am not even convinced that they will not give him the death penalty. There are other espionage act charges that carry the death penalty," she told RT, adding that the US is likely to "throw everything they can at him."

Also on rt.com 175 yrs in jail for revealing war crimes? Where's MSM outrage over persecution of Assange?

Assange’s prosecution goes beyond simply seeking to punish a man who exposed US atrocities, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Iraq as well as torture and mistreatment of prisoners, according to the journalist.

They are sending a message that if you publish some leaks or something that the [US] government does not like, that is going to ruin your whole life. You can potentially go to jail forever.

The US government basically wants the people to give up hope that they will have any future at all if they ever dare to go against Washington, Fairbanks said.

"If there was something so important that you felt you needed to leak it, you could know that you would still have some of your life left afterwards. Now they are sending the message that you won't," she told RT.

The entire campaign against Assange is “a huge threat to the First Amendment, especially for the national security reporters,” as it severely limits journalistic freedoms and puts reporters under indirect pressure from the US authorities.

They are criminalizing journalism. That is exactly what they are doing and there is no way around it.

The fact that Assange is not even a US citizen and that he never committed any crime on US territory is particularly worrying, Fairbanks notes. She explained that this situation shows that pretty much any journalist from any country can become a victim of the US persecution and face extradition to America.

Fairbanks took particular issue with the indictment’s claim that Assange endangered individuals working for the US government by publishing the classified government documents.

"To claim that the leaks harmed someone now would be ridiculous," she told RT.

Also on rt.com Assange indictments aim to 'discourage media from reporting atrocities & war crimes'

During the 2010 trial of Chelsea Manning, the US Army intelligence analyst who provided Assange with the documents, the Pentagon itself confirmed that nobody was killed because of the leaks and nobody even had to be moved because of the leaks.

"I find it hard to believe that it would suddenly change, because the Pentagon had no interest in protecting Manning at that time," Fairbanks said.

Assange is currently in the Belmarsh crown prison outside of London, serving his 50-week prison sentence for violating UK bail by seeking asylum in Ecuador. He spent almost seven years trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as the UK would not allow him passage out. He is also awaiting a hearing on the US extradition request.

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