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DNC threatens press freedom in lawsuit against WikiLeaks, Assange over 2016 election

The Democratic National Committee has launched a wide-ranging lawsuit against Russia, WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, Donald Trump – everyone it blames for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election. “Russia,” the suit contends, “mounted a brazen attack on American Democracy” by hacking the DNC and publicizing information damaging to the Clinton campaign through WikiLeaks. The narrative will be familiar to anyone who has followed any coverage of the US presidential election. But the charges that the DNC decided to levy should worry anyone with an interest in US press freedom.

The lawsuit contends that merely by publishing the DNC’s communications, a journalistic act obviously protected by the First Amendment that major newspapers carry out routinely, WikiLeaks is guilty of “economic espionage,” and is liable for damages resulting from that publication.

As Glenn Greenwald and Trevor Timm note in The Intercept, “Some of the most important stories in contemporary journalism have come from media outlets obtaining and publishing materials that were taken without authorization or even in violation of the law.”

They write:

Media figures constantly sounded the alarm about threats to press freedom each time Donald Trump posts an insulting tweet about various media personalities. But the DNC’s lawsuit — just like the attempts of the Obama and Trump DOJs to criminalize and prosecute whistleblowing under the Espionage Act — is an actual grave threat to those press freedoms.

Similarly, Norman Solomon observes for TruthDig:

The most unprincipled part of the lawsuit has to do with its targeting of Assange and WikiLeaks. That aspect of the suit shows that the DNC is being run by people whose attitude toward a free press—ironically enough—has marked similarities to Donald Trump’s.

The threat this suit poses to American journalism is hard to overstate. As Greenwald and Timm write, “No media outlet can function, indeed journalism cannot function, if it becomes illegal to publish secret materials taken by a source without authorization or even illegally.”

See the full lawsuit here:

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