But granting Assange journalist status is beyond problematic: It’s likely to draw more attacks on press freedom such as the Georgia lawmakers’ thinly disguised attempt to sanction and ostracize journalists whose work they don’t like.
Standards Differentiate Journalism
But as the Knight Foundation has documented, those financial problems are compounded by a credibility crisis. “Most U.S. adults, including more than nine in 10 Republicans, say they personally have lost trust in the news media in recent years,” the foundation reported in September 2018.
The Times wrote that it shared its rationale for making the redactions with WikiLeaks “in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents,” but Assange does not appear to have been impressed. He followed no journalistic practices or journalism ethics in .
When WikiLeaks posted the emails of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign staffers in 2016, home and email addresses, and credit card, Social Security and passport numbers, as well as the details of a staffer’s suicide attempt.
Deserving a Privilege
It’s not a privilege if everyone gets it.
There has to be something special about what journalists do, and how and why they do it, that makes them worthy of a privilege that others don’t receive.
Rottman’s measured analysis also notes another concern for data reporters: The 1984 law at the heart of the Assange indictment, the could, if interpreted in an overbroad fashion, endanger journalists (or other members of the public, such as academics) who use computer programming to “scrape” otherwise hard-to-analyze information from public government websites. But that’s not the issue here.
Nor, significantly, is Assange charged with publishing on the WikiLeaks website documents obtained through that hack.
Legal decisions have long offered a great deal of protection to those who publish information, nowhere near as much to those who seek access to government information or facilities, and virtually none to those who steal information.
The best way for press and press freedom organizations to ensure the Assange case doesn’t set precedent that interferes with the public’s right to access important information – even information the government doesn’t want to reveal – is through friend of the court briefs.