Several of the world's most prominent news organizations released a letter urging the U.S. to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the Australian founder of the controversial site WikiLeaks.

The letter — signed by the New York Times, the United Kingdom's The Guardian, France's Le Monde, Spain's El País, and Germany's Der Spiegel, calls for "the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets."

The news outlet each published stories based on 251,000 U.S. State Department cables obtained and released by WikiLeaks, the organization Assange founded to collect and disseminate government and corporate secrets.

The letter states that Assange and Wikileaks "suffered the most severe consequences" for the publication of secret documents, though the media outlets criticized his handling of the information.

U.K. authorities arrested Assange in 2019 at Ecuador's embassy, where he had been living since 2012 as he fought extradition to Sweden, where he was charged with sexual assault. The Swedish charges were dropped, and he was arrested in 2019 by U.K. authorities on behalf of the U.S., where he is charged with violating the Espionage Act.

The act has never been used to prosecute the publisher of information — only spies and government officials who leak information.

The letter argues that charging Assange with violating the Espionage Act sets a dangerous precedent, threatening to "undermine America's First Amendment and freedom of the press."