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AUSTRALIA’S journalists’ union called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the British government to oppose the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States today.
Yesterday Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, was dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London after the President Lenin Moreno’s government revoked the Australian journalist’s asylum-seeker status.
He had spent the past seven years in the building on the grounds that if he was detained in Britain he would be extradited to the US and jailed as a spy in retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of Iraq War logs and infamous Collatoral Murder footage of a brutal 2007 helicopter air strike.
Mr Assange was originally wanted to stand trial regarding allegations of sexual offences in Sweden, but after these “timed out” in 2017 British authorities continued to seek his arrest for skipping bail.
In an open letter addressed to the British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said Assange’s persecution would have “a chilling effect on the public’s right to know what governments do in the name of their citizens.”
“It is a principle of a free press that the media has a duty to scrutinise the powerful and to hold them to account,” the letter reads.
“WikiLeaks was established in a way to allow whistleblowers seeking to publicly expose wrongdoing to upload material anonymously and with no possibility of being traced. This is common practice among media organisations around the world ...
“Extradition of Mr Assange and prosecution by the United States would set a disturbing global precedent for the suppression of press freedom.”
Payne later responded, saying: “The extradition process itself is a matter between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
Australian journalist John Pilger echoed MEAA’s warning on RT’s Going Underground show today, calling Mr Assange’s arrest “an assault on journalism.”
Mr Pilger said: “On the way to an American prison could be a host of other editors if they push their luck.
“If Julian and WikiLeaks can be prosecuted, then so can the editors of those newspapers that carried their work.”
Meanwhile US President Donald Trump claimed he knew “nothing about WikiLeaks” when asked about Assange’s arrest in the White House today, despite praising WikiLeaks several times during his presidential campaign.
US dissident academic and radical left-wing author Noam Chomsky said the arrest was a scandalous effort by the US government and others “to silence journalists who are producing material that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about.
“WikiLeaks was publishing things that people ought to know. People in power don’t like that and therefore have to silence it. This is the kind of scandal that takes place over and over.
“The other scandal is the extraterritorial reach of the United States. Why should the US have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? It’s an outlandish situation and it goes on all the time.”
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