WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday morning under a US extradition warrant, prompting fierce debate among the media, intelligence, and legal communities on the implications for journalism and free speech.

The Ecuadorian embassy—which sheltered Assange for seven years—revoked his asylum after “repeated violations” of conventions, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno explained on Twitter.

In Britain, Mr Assange skipped bail twice: to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant on sexual assault charges, and to pre-empt US extradition. Britain may jail Mr Assange for 12 months; Sweden may reignite its rape charges—but all eyes are on the US Department of Justice.

The US neither charged Assange for publishing classified information, nor invoked the Espionage Act—which would have set threatening precedents for news outlets.

But the indictment supports its charge of “conspiracy to hack a government computer” by citing behaviour many journalists would recognise: using encrypted messaging services, or protecting sources’ confidentiality.

Assange’s critics argue his indiscriminate release of classified data jeopardised high-stakes intelligence operations, endangering undercover US security operatives worldwide.

Assange’s supporters counter that WikiLeaks played a vital role in exposing outrageous abuses by the US, including torture, extrajudicial executions, and war crimes.

How should we balance between security and free speech?

         

Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.