Global Freedom of Expression

15 October

Press Freedom, National Security and Whistleblowers: From Julian Assange to the White House

  • 5:30pm-7:30pm EST
  • Columbia Maison Française, Buell Hall
    515 West 116th Street
    New York, NY

Blowing the whistle increasingly comes at an extreme personal risk. Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison and served one year in conditions deemed cruel and inhuman by the UN Rapporteur on Torture, and now is back in jail for refusing to testify against Julian Assange. Earlier this year, Australian authorities raided reporters’ offices, and just last week, President Trump labeled a CIA whistleblower a traitor. Since 2009, the US has prosecuted 18 people for leaking national security information, including 7 in the first 32 months of the Trump administration.

The case against Julian Assange, who published troves of classified US documents in 2010, constitutes a litmus test for press freedom in the information age. The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts of Espionage – the first such charges for a publisher. Assange, who has risen to prominence since founding WikiLeaks in 2006 and drawn supporters and detractors in equal measure, is fighting extradition from Britain.

Does Julian Assange merit support and solidarity? What about other whistleblowers and publishers of secretive information that may jeopardize national security? How has the treatment of Assange and others affected press freedoms and human rights thus far, and what would the ramifications of his conviction be?

Join us as Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, the Courage Foundation, the Knight First Amendment Institute, and the Open Society Justice Initiative bring together distinguished panelists, including human rights and national security experts, United Nations Rapporteurs, and freedom of expression lawyers, to discuss all sides of the debate around WikiLeaks’ publishing, Assange’s prosecution, and the future of blowing the whistle.


Agnes Callamard – Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression; UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions


Sandra Coliver – Senior Managing Legal Officer for Freedom of Information, Expression, Assembly & Association at the Open Society Justice Initiative

Carrie DeCell – Staff Attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute

Nancy Hollander – Attorney at Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward P.A.; Associate Tenant at London’s Doughty Street Chambers

Nils Melzer – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy; Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow