Julian Assange court
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in April 2019 (Image: EPA/stringer)

Last week our correspondent-at-large, Guy Rundle, painted a compelling picture of Julian Assange’s first court appearance in London. And over the weekend the comments rolled in. Is this the new dawn of a terrifying era for investigative journalism? Is Assange getting a fair go from the media? And what action can we reasonably expect from the Australian government? As always, let us know what you think.

On Assange’s arrest

Quentin Dempster writes: Excellent piece, Mr Rundle. Many Australian journalists are ambivalent about Julian Assange. “Narcissist”, “anarchist” etc. But by definition, and now extensive publications, Julian Assange is both a publisher and a journalist and is entitled to the first amendment (freedom of the press) protections of the US constitution in the event that his extradition is granted by the UK.

Glenn Greenwald [and Micah Lee] has written about the best analysis in The Intercept sorting out what is behind the Trump DOJ’s current indictment of Assange. We need precision in covering/understanding what, at law, is behind the extradition of Julian Assange. After The New York Times and The Washington Post were vindicated by the Supreme Court over their publication of the Pentagon Papers (illegally leaked to them by Daniel Ellsberg), Assange’s conduct in his relationship with Chelsea Manning for the WikiLeaks trove is now at issue. Assange is an Australian citizen. Australia is entitled to make representations to the UK and the US to ensure his rights at law are protected.

Judith W writes: If I was an investigative journalist I would be in a panic. Once this precedent is set, what is to stop any government from extraditing any journalist from any country they have an extradition treaty with. This situation is a shocking attack on press freedom.

Andrew Malzard writes: Also on trial will be our politicians. Do they really care about one of their most important duties: to protect the citizens who elect them from injustice and the right to speak freely? Or are they captive to the wishes of a rogue state trying to hide unlawful, inexcusable atrocities then hide them to escape scrutiny from decent members of the UN, and their own citizens?

Whatever you think of Assange, he wasn’t prepared to allow a group of western nations illegally invade another nation then butcher many of its citizens with a ruthless show of force and no accountability. We should thank him for that, not try him. Will our politicians once again lick Uncle Sam’s feet or will they act like decent human beings you’re more likely to find just across the ditch?

Ian Hunt writes: Yes, Guy, the threat to investigative journalism should stare us in the face. There is a darker threat though, lying behind the modest little charge of conspiring to hack a computer, with its maximum sentence of five years.

The UK government has stated that it will not allow Assange’s extradition for a charge to which a death penalty is attached. Has it been asked though, whether it also seeks a guarantee that Assange will not subsequently be charged with a death penalty offence, once he is in US custody? Perhaps on the day of his release from his up to five years penalty charge? This is the crucial question and it would be nice if such questions could begin ASAP.

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