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Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

Editorial – Prosecuting publishers

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Julian Assange is fighting extradition orders from the UK to the US on espionage charges.

WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen, Julian Assange, will soon face possibly his final court hearing in the UK High Court of Justice over whether he should be extradited to the US to face spying charges. 

For those new to the world of whistleblowing, it’s proven to instigate positive change. 

It’s protection from tyranny. 

Assange published US military secrets in 2010, provided by US army whistleblower, Chelsea Manning. The leaks revealed war crimes, torture, assassinations, and the list of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. 

There is no evidence that this published information led to any deaths or compromised the US. 

It was just embarrassing for the US government and horrifying for everyone else. 

As the most powerful war/death machine on the planet – by far – US govcorp are not used to being exposed, or their hypocrisy pointed out. For his sins, Assange spent seven years in self-exile inside Ecuador’s UK embassy, and now it’s coming up to five years in Belmarsh maximum security prison, all without charge. 

So far, the federal Labor government have shown a lack of negotiation skills to free this poor tortured soul. Perhaps they are just too scared of the US? There have been plenty of bargaining chips of late, like the dreadful AUKUS deal.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) say, ‘If extradited to the US, Assange faces a staggering possible prison sentence of 175 years. This is the first time in US history that a publisher has been prosecuted for obtaining or publishing (as opposed to leaking) US state secrets’. 

CCL president Lydia Shelly said, ‘Chelsea Manning was pardoned by Obama and released after seven years in prison’. 

‘The Obama administration decided not to proceed with charges against Assange, but they were revived under President Trump’.

The CCL adds, ‘Assange would go on trial in the Eastern District of Virginia court where the jury pool relies heavily on employees or family members of employees of the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon and other national security institutions’.

And this legal case is of enormous significance for free speech and journalism across the globe. 

CCL say: ‘The US government is attempting to use its 1917 Espionage Act against a journalist and publisher for the very first time. Assange is not a US citizen, and his publications occurred in the UK’. 

Extending judicial reach 

‘If the US is successful, it will have redefined investigative journalism as “espionage”. It will have extended its judicial reach internationally, and applied it to a non-US citizen without a corresponding extension of First Amendment rights, which prosecutors maintain does not apply to Mr Assange as a non-US citizen publishing from the UK.

‘This will pose an existential threat to the free press as other countries will be able to argue that they too should be allowed to extradite journalists and publishers from the UK for breaking their censorship or secrecy laws’.

Unfortunately in an increasingly globalised world, persecuting whistleblowers, by those committing the crimes, is being normalised. Russia and China regularly kill their dissidents and opposition leaders. 

It was always assumed western countries treated their critics better and valued free speech. Do they?  

Hans Lovejoy, editor

News tips are welcome: [email protected]


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Hans, do you remember the euphemism, ” the coalition of the willing” ?
    When you say that the US was embarrassed by the proof of war-crimes, please remember the armed forces of UK and Australia were also exposed as international terrorists, and this is precisely why these criminal organisations are hell-bent on revenge.
    The torture camps of Guantanamo Bay and other ‘Black sites’ have been set up to facilitate the illegal arrest of anybody the above-mentioned
    fascist regimes consider capable of exposing their evil ways.
    We are not alone in these atrocities, there are no safe refuges for journalists nor any other citizens, who prove the lies of freedom and democracy in these countries, are nothing more than the propaganda common to Russia, China South America, Africa and, of course, the Israelis who have been committing this sort of international murder for the last 75 years, with our collusion.
    Although this state of affairs is widespread, it is still nonetheless, every bit as evil as the Catholic Inquisitions.
    You all know this is true ! What will you do about it ? G”)

  2. I agree the “Merchants of Death” prefer to operate out of sight. The Afghan conflict went for twenty years, four presidents and cost a staggering
    $US 3 trillion. Where did this wealth come from? Out of the People’s pockets! Where did it go to? The “Military Industrial Complex” owned by the
    billionaires club, the top 10%. The Iraq war killed at least One Million Iraqi citizens, then we have Libya destroyed and left in the hands of armed bands, and so the awful tale goes on & on. war is highly profitable so when Honest people such as Julian Assange start to expose what is going on
    the full force of the State Machine is turned against them. Minions such as the Australian Gov. are told not to interfere. UK Gov. told what to do and they comply and a brave man is being railroaded to the Gallows.
    Frank Ball Tweed Heads

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