16 April 2019, Sydney
In 2011, Wikileaks, with Julian Assange as its editor, received a Walkley Award in Australia for its outstanding contribution to journalism. Walkley judges said Wikileaks applied new technology to “penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup”. One of those many inconvenient truths was the exposure by video of US helicopter attacks in Baghdad that killed 11 civilians including two Reuters journalists.
Many mainstream journalists worked with Assange’s material to publish their own reports including media outlets such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Australia, The Guardian in the United Kingdom, The New York Times in the US, El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France and Der Spiegel in Germany. There has been no attempt by the US Government to prosecute any of those journalists involved.
The Government is relying on one allegation against Assange—that he helped Chelsea Manning crack a password to access a US government computer—to seek his extradition from Britain to America where, if successful, he seems likely to face other, more serious charges that would constitute a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms.
Julian Assange’s personality and his more recent actions do not weaken the principle driving the Walkley Foundation’s concerns in this matter: that when he released the original Wikileaks material in 2010 Assange was assisting a whistleblower to reveal information in the public interest.
Given the potential adverse impact of this extradition attempt on a free, healthily functioning media, the Walkley Foundation Board urges the British and Australian governments to oppose Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States.
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