(New York, NY) — A court in the United Kingdom today rejected a U.S. request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges. Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs, said the following:

“PEN America welcomes the outcome of today’s decision that will prevent the extradition of Julian Assange to face 17 counts under the Espionage Act, alongside other charges. We believe that in charging Assange under this act, for actions that media outlets routinely undertake as part of their role in holding government to account, the Department of Justice set a dangerous precedent that threatens the workings of a free press. In order to play its proper role in a democracy, the media must be free to report on and publish even classified information. We do not see a viable distinction between certain of the actions taken by Assange that form the basis for the Espionage Act prosecution and the essential work performed by journalists. We urge the Justice Department to drop those charges against Assange and cease prosecutions of media under the Espionage Act.”

PEN America has previously defended whistleblowers and has identified the prosecution of certain leakers and whistleblowers as a direct threat to free expression, most notably in the organization’s 2015 report Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security, and Free Expression.