By Joe Montero
A group of Labor backbenchers are calling on Anthony Albanese to back Julian Assange and call on Washington to stop the persecution of the journalist and editor of WikiLeaks. They urge the new Prime Minister to “stay true to his values.”
Last December, Albanese publicly stated: “I’ve said for some time that enough is enough … He has paid a big price for the publication of that information already and I do not see what purpose is served by the ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange.”
But since then, he has kept silent on the matter.
John Shipton, Assange’s farther, says he has had several lunches with Albanese, where Albanese promised to do “whatever he can” to free his son.
The Labor backbenchers are part of a parliamentary group of representatives from all parties who have sought to have Assange freed. In addition to the violation of the basic human rights of the individual, the parliamentarians are concerned about the impact the case on freedom of the press and Australia’s sovereignty.
Press freedom advocates, human rights, and lawyers’ groups have also been campaigning for Assange.
Should the extradition succeed, it will send out the chilling message that any journalist revealing inconvenient news will become a target. The case has already been making reporting increasingly compliant to a government’s position.
Labor member Julian Hill is a leading member of the parliamentary group. said he is hopeful of a positive move on the matter.
In April. a court in the UK formally approved the extradition of Assange to the US on charges of treason and espionages. The treason charges allege he betrayed the United States. And the penalty is draconian. Up to 175 years in prison.
The difficulty with this is that Julian Assange is not a citizen of the United States or has any other connection. This simple fact means that Washington’s intention violates international law, and is a problem for the United Kingdom, where Assange is imprisoned and waiting for the result of the extradition application. The two countries have a treaty forbidding the extradition of someone for political purposes.
A treaty between the two countries forbids the extradition of a person for political purposes, and this case is obviously political. Politics has driven both governments to violate their own law.
This is the most likely reason why Washington came up with the new charge of espionage last year. This involves the allegation that helped Chelsea Manning to get the codes to break into the Central Intelligence Agency’s computer system and steal classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan.
A simple fact is overlooked Chelsea Manning was an analyst who already had access to the computer system. As thin as the accusation is, it provides a pretext to get around legal difficulties. Espionage carries the death penalty in the United States.
Julian Hill said it is unacceptable that while Chelsea Manning was released, Julian Assange should still be pursued with what is effectively a death sentence.
The Assange case is set to become big news once again in Australia.
Meanwhile, journalists in Brazil launched a manifesto on Press Freedom Day on 3 May, which was signed by the nation’s journalist and media organisations.
The manifesto says,
“He exposed lies, unmasked false heroes, and uncovered shady dealings between governments. He verified allegations of execution and torture of prisoners and journalists.
“In an example of professional rigour, his revelations were always accompanied by extensive documentation, photos and videos whose veracity was never questioned.”
It then goes on to say,
“Assange is being persecuted – and may lose his life – because he dared to tell the truth. He did not misrepresent the facts, he did not omit, he did not lie or deceive. Nor did he lack the courage
to denounce what he discovered. He merely fulfilled his duty to state the harsh reality of this 21st century of ours.”
And finished with,
In the name of his right to freedom – and for the preservation of conquests that concern all of humanity – there is only one right measure to take: Free Julian Assange now.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union representing journalists in Australia, has called on the Biden Administration to drop the charges.
MEAA Media Federal President Karen Percy urged the Australian Government in April to use its close ties to both the US and the UK to end the court proceedings… and have the charges dropped to allow Assange to return home to Australia, if that is his wish.”
Similar positions have been taken by counterparts in the United Sates, Great Britain, and other counties.
Most important is the tide of public opinion is firmly on Julian Assange’s side. This is especially true in Australia.
It would lift the stocks of the political Albanese government and the new Prime Minister to make a move on this issue.