Freedom of the Press is More Than Just a Slogan.

This is a whole lot bigger than Julian Assange.

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Photo: Julian Assange in a prison van on May 1st, via AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas

As cliché as it sounds, freedom of the press is the cornerstone of every single free, functioning society that exists in our world today. Freedom of the press is not only vital in providing the public with necessary information about government actions, but it can be attributed to our freedom as well. When the press is free, our ability to take in and interpret accurate information is free. If the press is free, so are our thoughts. But at what point does that freedom we cherish become nothing more than an illusion?

In the United States, it begins slowly.

It begins with a closed door that ever so quietly gets opened, and they wait with patience until the time is right to walk right through it. It begins with a desperate attempt to justify certain actions in the name of safety and security, in order to make the actions more palatable. They instill fear, testing the waters until the time is right.

When it comes to Julian Assange, both sides of the political isle in Washington fall back on one thing: national security. But the reality is that Julian Assange has been a danger to nothing except the illusion of our freedoms that the government has so artfully crafted. Because of his journalism, we know things the government would rather we didn’t. We know about crimes committed by our Military abroad. We know about our government’s indiscriminate spying on its citizens, and we know about our own elected officials meddling in our elections.

Assange is no threat to our national security, but the charges against him are a clear threat to press freedoms.

On either side of the political isle, Assange has no friends. But I cannot even begin to describe how little that should matter. On the basis of principle alone, we should want Julian Assange to be free. The underlying intentions of ANY of his journalistic actions thus far do not matter. He has not printed false information, threatened any sources, or printed anything that caused anyone bodily harm. He has exposed blatant government overreach and wrongdoing, which I would argue we should want all of our journalists to do. Regardless of how we feel about the officials or agencies they are exposing, it is our fundamental right to be told when and how our government is going astray.

Press freedom, if anything, is an uncomfortable reminder for our government about the power of the people. Knowledge itself is the greatest form of power, and when given that power we are able to use it against them at the ballot box. Those like Assange with the courage and integrity to give that freedom back to us become a living, breathing act of resistance, and allow us to do so as well.

Make no mistake, this is a non-partisan issue. This has lasting implications for the way politics is done across both sides of the isle. These recent moves against Assange send a clear message to not just the press, but anyone who dares to question government motives and actions. We are at a critical moment in time that has incredible potential to determine what our country and our media will look like in the near future. We have the responsibility of looking beyond personal feelings towards Assange, and seeing the lasting implications of what prosecution of journalistic actions will mean for the future of media and journalists in this country.

Anyone within the press who refuses to come out in defense of Julian Assange is nothing more than useful tool, and any of our presidential candidates who won’t speak out in his defense simply cannot be trusted. Freedom of the press is more than just a slogan. When it is threatened, it is our moral and civic duty to do something about it.

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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