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We shouldn’t send Assange to America

A pro-Assange protest in London in October. Guy Smallman/Getty Images

Julian Assange is an unappealing character, “to put it mildly”, says Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times. The WikiLeaks founder has voiced support for French far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen and clearly has an appalling attitude towards women. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the British court ruling last week that he can be extradited to America on espionage charges. He published half a million secret documents revealing that the US military covered up the killing of 15,000 Iraqi civilians. Any journalist offered that sort of information doesn’t just have a right to publish it, they have a “duty”. Which is precisely why The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel helped him. 

Admittedly, Assange should not have published the unredacted names of Afghans and Iraqis who assisted the Americans. But two bigger issues are at stake. First, the US believes it can punish anyone, anywhere, who discloses its secrets. If Assange can be extradited, why not the Guardian editors who assisted him? Second, the conflation of journalism with spying is “a favourite trick of authoritarian regimes” – Washington criticised Russia in March for bringing espionage charges against a journalist in Crimea. The US wants to make an example of Assange to scare off future whistleblowers. The crime, it seems, is not to kill the innocent, “but to talk about it”.

Why it matters Assange is Australian and was not in breach of any Australian laws at the time of his actions, says Barnaby Joyce in The Sydney Morning Herald. Nor was he in the US when the event brought before the London court occurred. The question is: “Why is he to be extradited to the US?”

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