In 2012, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange left the United States and found asylum in an Ecuador embassy after the American media called for his murder for the “crime” of publishing classified documents regarding national surveillance in the country.
Assange, who leaked federal government documents to the public, has put forth a national debate surrounding not only surveillance in the U.S, but also the definition of free speech.
As journalists, or muckrakers such as Assange, it is a responsibility to release information that the public may not be aware of or to expose issues that are hidden in mainstream media.
The fact that Assange needs to leave the country for a crime that is not illegal makes me think that journalism is being redefined by the mainstream media, specifically regarding the right to free speech.
In the age of new media, journalists have much more accessibility to documents, whether they are public or not. For example, the Internet allows for people to access much more information than intended. For Assange, he merely did what other investigative journalists do: inform the public about the truth.
With mainstream media covering up certain issues and important documents, it is hard for the public to really know what is happening in the nation. This allows us to question the ethics and truth behind the news that mainstream media presents.
If individual citizens have the right to say what they want under the Constitutional right to free speech, then why is it a crime for a journalist to report on what they want?
Assange’s actions and the creation of WikiLeaks are not unconstitutional, in fact, he also has the right to free speech like everyone else. He should not be put on trial under the Espionage Act because there simply is no evidence of crime or even any wrongdoing. If releasing classified documents is not a crime, then why does the public believe he should be put on trial under the Espionage Act?