(WASHINGTON)— PEN America issued the following comment on the reported plea deal agreement between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the U.S. government:

“The U.S. government’s pursuit of charges against Julian Assange under the Espionage Act has posed an alarming threat to press freedom in the United States and globally, sending a chilling message to journalists and risking emboldening authoritarian governments. 

PEN America welcomes the resolution of the case.

The charges targeted activity routinely undertaken by journalists in the course of their work to expose wrongdoing and hold the powerful to account. It is critical that his guilty plea on the single count not be construed as setting a precedent for further prosecutions or convictions of journalists under the Espionage Act. 

Instead, Congress should seize this opportunity to immediately reform the Espionage Act to include an exception for information disclosures that advance the public interest. This move would send a strong signal in defense of press freedom, strengthening protections for journalists in the United States and reducing the risk of the law being wielded for political purposes in the future.” 

PEN America, with many other civil, press and human rights organizations, has for years called for the charges against Assange under the Espionage Act to be dropped.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057