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Tas adviser for Assange warns press freedom is at stake

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been accused of placing the US at risk of "serious harm" by publishing thousands of secret and classified documents in new charges filed by the US Justice Department.

In an 18-count, superseding indictment, Justice Department prosecutors allege Assange directed former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.

Justice Department officials said yesterday they believe Assange strayed far outside constitutional protections.

"Julian Assange is no journalist," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

However, Assange's Tasmanian-based advisor Greg Barns has told News 24, the future of press freedom is at stake.

"The real issue in this case is that issue of whether or not he is protected by what is called the First Amendment in the United States, which is freedom of speech. Of course, that's why journalists don't get charged in the United States when they reveal so-called secret information and no doubt the line that will be run by the Department of Justice is that he's not a journalist."

He said the new charges are a concern.

"No one in Australia, no one in the United Kingdom charged with a similar offence would go to jail for life. That's one of the great concerns about this matter, that you have an Australian citizen who's facing life in prison effectively for telling the truth about what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan."

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