The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed deep concern over the U.S. government’s decision to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act.

“The decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act poses serious implications for press freedom in the U.S. and globally”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “Receiving and publishing information that governments would rather keep hidden goes to the core of journalism’s role in democracy. This indictment risks setting a highly dangerous precedent that can be abused to prosecute journalists of any stripe for their role in revealing information in the public interest.”

The U.S. Justice Department unveiled the new indictment against Assange on Thursday. Prosecutors had previously charged Assange with conspiracy to commit computer hacking together with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The charges under the Espionage Act represent a significant escalation of the U.S.’s efforts to punish Assange for his role in publishing a vast trove of American military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

Assange is currently in British custody after having spent several years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. It remains unclear whether the UK will ultimately extradite Assange to the U.S.