The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the US has sickening consequences: for Julian, for his family, and for press freedom around the world. The Albanese Government must do more to bring Julian home.
By Senator Jordon Steele-John
By now you’ve no doubt heard the news that the UK has approved WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US to face espionage and hacking charges.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely sickened by what that means: for Julian, for his family, and for press freedom around the world.
Julian is not a criminal. In his work at WikiLeaks, Julian exposed heinous war crimes perpetrated by the United States. He received information from sources and he published that information online. No matter which way you slice it, these actions amount to journalism. This exact thing happens every single day in newsrooms all around the world.
While much can be said about how free our media actually is (hello, Murdoch monopoly), the fact remains that the prosecution of these charges against Julian will have catastrophic consequences on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. It will set a dangerous precedent for journalists around the world – already an incredibly dangerous job in many countries – who will suddenly be vulnerable to prosecution simply for reporting the facts.
That is exactly what is now in train. It is up to all of us to ensure that does not happen.
In Australia, there’s a groundswell of support for Julian and for his release. My friend and colleague Senator Janet Rice has been tireless in her advocacy for Julian, as has my colleague Senator Peter Whish-Wilson through his work in the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group. So many more people have worked behind the scenes to help bring him home. So many more people are needed.
In 2021, then-opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for Julian’s urgent release from jail. He said enough is enough, and that he “can’t see what is served by keeping him incarcerated”. I couldn’t agree more. The Australian Greens couldn’t agree more.
But now, as prime minister, Albanese has fallen silent. He holds the highest office in the country, and he has the singular power to put pressure on the US government to drop these farcical charges.
Instead, his government’s official response is that they have “noted” the extradition order. While they have also said they would like to see the case “brought to a close”, that reads as indifference as to *how* it actually comes to an end.
Prime Minister, that is not good enough. The community has expressed in no uncertain terms that we want you to act quickly and decisively to end this injustice and bring Julian home. In the absence of any action approximating this, we can only conclude you are choosing to speak out on this issue only when it is politically expedient.
Julian cannot be left to die in prison. That is unfortunately a very possible outcome if the extradition to the US goes ahead. Julian will likely be held in solitary confinement – a death sentence for a man experiencing depression and at risk of suicide. And this will all be happening in a country that literally plotted an assassination attempt against him; a country that is exacting clumsy revenge against him for embarrassing them and exposing them for the war criminals they are.
The Australian Government must intervene – NOW. No more deferring to “due process”, no more “noting” of developments. The Prime Minister must pick up the phone to Washington and tell President Joe Biden in no uncertain terms that the US must end this abuse of power and drop the charges against Julian. For him, for his family, and for all of us.
Because as WikiLeaks wrote in their statement responding to the extradition news yesterday, Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. The Greens will always support journalists’ right to speak truth to power, and we will continue the fight to bring Julian home.
Senator Jordon Steele-John is the Australian Greens’ portfolio-holder for Foreign Affairs.
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