On 17 June, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition to the US to face charges, primarily under the nation’s Espionage Act, for releasing US government records that revealed the US military committed war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists.
Assange, a member of the MEAA since 2007, may now only have a slim chance of challenging the extradition. If found guilty, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
The WikiLeaks founder is highly likely to be detained in the US under conditions of isolation or solitary confinement, despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide.
Wikileaks was awarded the Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism in 2011, an annual prize to reward excellence in Australian journalism, in recognition of the impact of WikiLeaks’ actions on public interest journalism by assisting whistleblowers to tell their stories.
According to the MEAA, 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’.
Whistleblowers have since been utilised by other media outlets to expose global tax avoidance schemes, among other stories. In the case of WikiLeaks, only Julian Assange faces charges, with no other WikiLeaks media partners cited in any US government legal actions. In 2017, Chelsea Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst who released classified information to WikiLeaks, was pardoned by former US President Barack Obama.
MEAA Media section Federal President Karen Percy said, “We urge the new Australian government to act on Julian Assange’s behalf and lobby for his release. The actions of the US are a warning sign to journalists and whistleblowers everywhere and undermine the importance of uncovering wrongdoing. Our thoughts are with Julian and his family at this difficult time.”
The IFJ said, “The United Kingdom Home Secretary’s decision to allow the extradition of Julian Assange is a significant blow to media freedom and a dire threat to journalists, whistleblowers, and media workers worldwide. The IFJ urges the Government of Australia to act swiftly to intervene and lobby the United States and United Kingdom governments to dismiss all charges against Assange. Journalism is not a crime.”