The charges against Julian Assange under the Espionage Act are a threat to press freedom.
Whether you like Assange or not what he did by publishing the documents he was given is no different than what journalists do. We can all agree that the Pentagon Papers did a huge service to the country, but at the time we were having the same debate. After all, they were classified documents too.
Those in behalf of prosecuting Assange argue that he is not a journalist and since he is accused of assisting Chelsea Manning, the person responsible for stealing the documents, he, therefore, should be prosecuted. But he was already charged separately with helping Manning and we don't yet know if he actually did that until it's proven in court.
What I'm talking about though, are the charges that criminalize journalistic actions. The new charges brought against Assange under the Espionage Act, as explained in this Wapo article. Those are what poses a threat to press freedom by undermining First Amendment protections that are supposed to protect everyone regardless if they are journalists or not.
If we start punishing whistleblowers, where does this take us, where do we draw the line? Investigative journalists and whistleblowers could be afraid to do their job or speak out and hold institutions accountable if these charges go through.
Another argument is that by publishing names of people working with the U.S. Assange put lives in danger. But that should be an ethical issue and not a justification for the charges, especially since there was no evidence that the WikiLeaks dump of documents pertaining to the Afghan war caused any harm or loss of life, an article shortly after the release shows.
In a time when the press has been under more attacks than I have ever witnessed - "fake news" has entered into our vocabulary, used liberally by anyone who doesn't like what's being said by the media, and the president of the United States has called the media "the true enemy of the people." I think it's important for us to stand up to any threats to one of the most important parts of our First Amendment, one that protects infringement on the other freedoms.