Civics: Former New York Times Chief Lawyer: Rally to Support Julian Assange

Trevor Timm:

James Goodale: When I wrote the book pointing out the dangers to the First Amendment if Assange was prosecuted, I made it my business to see if I could gin up support within the media/press community to stick up for his rights, since his rights would affect everyone else’s. I had occasion to speak to many groups in connection with the promotion of my book. Every time I mentioned the fact that establishment press should advocate for Assange’s rights, I heard hoots of laughter or people shouting at me that I didn’t understand the journalism profession.

I was dismayed that I got very few converts in the journalistic community that would take my position that it was necessary to support Assange — not for Assange himself, but for the First Amendment.

To that point, you don’t need to like Assange — or you could even actively hate him — to support his First Amendment rights and realize the danger prosecution poses to all journalists, or journalists at the New York Times, for example.

At the time, the facts concerning Assange with respect to publication of material that he made with the New York Times, Guardian, etc, presented a classic First Amendment case of someone who was very unpopular, disliked, but nonetheless has First Amendment rights. It’s classic First Amendment theory that you separate the First Amendment from the personality and the activities and rights of the person you’re defending.