All it needs for evil to flourish is for people of good will to do nothing. - Edmund Burke

We understand from news reports overnight that Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks has presented himself to UK police and been arrested over sexual assault claims in Sweden. We call on the government to ensure that Assange is afforded the proper support, security and representation due to an Australian citizen facing charges overseas.

Due to the nature of the #cablegate leaks recently published by Wikileaks, Assange has become a target for angry, fearful and vengeful politicians and powerbrokers who have been subject to embarrassing and damaging leaks of information.

While loud voices overseas are clamouring, quite literally, for Assange’s blood and for the closure of Wikileaks, Australia must stand firm and adhere to the basic principles which frame our democracy - including the rule of law, the presumption of innocence and the protection of speech.

Any legal action against Assange or Wikileaks must be kept free from political motivations or interference and any charges laid against Assange must be founded in law, based on fact and exercised in a public court.

We agree with those who have called on the Prime Minister to speak out against the death threats being made against Julian Assange, and we would also ask the government to guard against any extra-judicial action being taken against him, or against Wikileaks.

Australia will send a dangerous message to potential whistleblowers about our reluctance to protect our citizens who publish unpopular truths if our government does not take immediate action to stop the continued persecution of Assange and Wikileaks.

While the internet is radically changing the way information can be shared between citizens and across borders, what hasn’t changed is the need for nations to protect those who perform acts of journalism and whistleblowing.

Whistleblowing is not illegal, nor is publishing leaked documents from whistleblowers. Whistleblowing is a legitimate way for citizens to reveal corruption and illegal activity. Like journalism, it is a tool for upholding democracy and speaking truth to power.

It would be as unjust to punish Wikileaks for publishing leaked documents as it would be to punish the newspapers which have published stories about those leaks. We note with concern that just such action is being contemplated in the US, where the actions of Wikileaks and the New York Times are being described by some as “espionage”.

It is of grave concern that in recent years, we have seen countries, including our allies, invoking extra-judicial measures in the name of democracy. We must resist this trend. Extra-judicial measures do not protect democracy, they undermine it.

While another outlet, or many outlets, would replace Wikileaks should it be shut down, Australia’s participation in the censorship or closure of Wikileaks would set a dangerous precedent for silencing citizens and critics of the state.

We call on the Prime Minister to retract her description of Wikileaks as “illegal”, which we believe is a statement without basis in law. We refer to the statement made by Senator George Brandis, the opposition's legal affairs spokesperson, who told The Age ‘‘As far as I can see he [Mr Assange] hasn’t broken any Australian law, nor does it appear he has broken any American laws."

Australians showed that they want the rights of their fellow citizens abroad protected in their support for the protection and return home of David Hicks. We must afford Julian Assange all the protections due to our citizens abroad, and resist attempts by foreign governments to overstep his rights. We must not let Julian Assange become the next David Hicks. And we must show our commitment to free speech by protecting the whistleblowing website, Wikileaks.

- The EFA Board


  1. Thanks for bringing up the David Hicks case - I knew there was a precedent for intervention by our Government on behalf of an Australian citizen.

    Comment by @Sffarlenn_net on 8 December 2010 at 09:45
  2. Although Julian Assange has massive support in the UK I wouldn't trust the double-dealing British government with his immediate future.__Many government politicians boasted to the US ambassador in London - prior to the general election earlier this year - that if they won they would become a pro-American government.__Watch this space.

    Comment by @brit_newsman on 8 December 2010 at 11:25
  3. Our government has provided continual support for the Bali Nine, including personal appeals to the Indonesian Prime Minister for clemency. The Australian government has spent a great deal of money on protecting these people's rights, even though they're convicted drug smugglers, arrested with many kilos of heroin strapped to their bodies.

    Our government's actions regarding the Bali Nine say that Australia will protect the rights of its citizens abroad, even when they are convicted of a major crime, and will continue to fight for their rights.

    The actions of our government regarding Julian Assange say that those rights go out the window when the U.S. government chooses. Assange hasn't even been charged with a crime yet (it's very hard to tell from the Swedish back-and-fill act), and he and Wikileaks certainly haven't broken any law by publishing leaked documents, yet suddenly he and they are "criminals", and it's quite OK to call for their murder.

    As an Australian, evidently you're better off as a major heroin smuggler than as a journalist.

    Comment by Clytie Siddall on 8 December 2010 at 14:57
  4. Gillard is the criminal, not Assange!

    Comment by Ann Hawkins on 8 December 2010 at 22:28
  5. OK, I hope I'm not going to take too much heat for this, and first up I totally believe in what Wikileaks does, however, some of the documents released really don't seem to be helping anyone that we'd really want helped do they? Yeah, it's great that they got and published the footage of the 2 journalists being gunned down, but surely they should take some responsibility over what they publish to make sure that it's not ultimately harmful. I admit I've not read any of the recently released documents and only know about the stuff that's hitting the news, and there could be some stuff in there that should really be made public, but surely copies of comments made about world leaders, which could damage international relationships should have been kept under wraps? Seriously, if went around at work telling pricks that other people in the office had been referring to them as pricks, wouldn't that make me a prick?
    So far everyone seems to be polarised one way or another, either Wikileaks, and Assange are satan incarnate, or the saviour. I'd love to see a bit more discussion about the wisdom of what he releases to the public.
    At the end of the day, if there's anything which is really worth releasing in the latest swathe of documents, it's been buried in all the media hype around the court cases, and that's bad, he'd have been better off concentrating on getting those out and making sure the right story was heard.
    That's my opinion anyway, feel free to refute me. Like I said, I'd like to see some proper discussion on this.

    Comment by Chris on 9 December 2010 at 13:43
    • Just 2 journos? What about the other 9 people and the 2 children in the van that were also killed? You make it sound like it was just a by-the-by event yet this is one of the worst examples of how war can go wrong when you recruit nothing but cowboys. This should at least be classed as manslaughter, if not blatant murder!

      Comment by Peter on 9 March 2011 at 23:42
  6. Chris - Wikileaks is irrelevant. That he is part of a paralegal organisiation that may be making a mistake in publishing documents has absolutely no bearing on whether Australia should step in to prevent him being extradited on patently flimsy charges.

    Comment by Scott on 9 December 2010 at 22:34
  7. With all that's happened perhaps Ms Gillard would like to remember "if you don't stand some something - you will fall for everything". Today Julian is our something. Bottom line he is an Australian in need and "no matter what" first and foremost we must remember this!! Lets protect our boy and let him know that we've got his back..

    Comment by m.m. on 16 December 2010 at 15:55
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