GENEVA (1 March 2024) – A UN expert today expressed concern that the possible extradition and imminent prosecution in the United States of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could have serious implications for freedom of expression.

“Gathering, reporting and disseminating information, including national security information when it is in the public interest, is a legitimate exercise of journalism and should not be treated as a crime,” said Irene Khan, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.

The Australian editor, publisher and activist is awaiting the decision of the High Court in the United Kingdom on his appeal against extradition to the United States, where he is facing 17 charges under the 1917 Espionage Act for publishing classified information on the WikiLeaks platform. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

“I am concerned about the use of the Espionage Act in this case, as this statute provides no protection for the publication of information in the public interest,” Khan said.

She noted that if extradited, Julian Assange would be the first publisher to be prosecuted in the US under the Espionage Act.

“It would set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in the United States and possibly elsewhere in the world,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“International human rights law provides strong protections for whistle-blowers, journalistic sources and reporting in the public interest,” Khan said. “I call on the United States and the United Kingdom, which profess to uphold the right to freedom of expression, to uphold these international standards in the case of Julian Assange.”

The expert urged the UK authorities not to extradite Assange and the US Government to drop the charges.

For additional information and media requests please write to