COLLEGE PARK (9/25/20) — Dr. Mark Feldstein, the Richard Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, testified as the lead witness in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London earlier this month.
Assange faces espionage charges in the U.S., and the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to extradite him from the United Kingdom.
Feldstein, a journalism historian and veteran investigative reporter, was called upon for his expertise regarding freedom of the press and investigative journalism practices. He testified for the defense that leaks of classified documents have been routine since George Washington’s presidency and that however unorthodox, Assange has engaged in the essence of journalism: gathering and publishing newsworthy information and documents for the public.
In a 14,000-word report to the court, Feldstein warned that imprisoning Assange for soliciting, receiving and publishing truthful information could create a dangerous precedent for mainstream journalists, effectively criminalizing investigative reporting that is essential to keeping the government accountable.
Feldstein spent 20 years as an award-winning on-air investigative correspondent at CNN, ABC News and various local television stations before coming to Merrill College.
His exposés led to resignations, firings, multimillion-dollar fines and prison terms — and more than 50 journalism awards, including two George Foster Peabody medallions, the Columbia-DuPont baton, the national Edward R. Murrow broadcasting prize and nine regional Emmys.