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Australian Journalists Condemn Attacks on WikiLeaks

December 14, 2010

Australian Journalists Condemn Attacks on WikiLeaks

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a statement issued by Australia’s senior editors and news directors on December 13 in support of whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

The letter, initiated by Australia’s professional journalism organisation the Walkley Foundation, the sister organisation of IFJ affiliate the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, comes in response to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s claims that WikiLeaks was breaking the law by publishing a cache of 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables.

WikiLeaks spokesman and editor-in-chief Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, prompting Gillard and other senior ministers to suggest he may be charged under Australian law. The Australian Government has provided no explanation as to what, if any, crimes Assange may have committed.

The senior journalists, who represent every major Australian newspaper publisher and television network, echoed the sentiments of IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, who questioned the criticism of WikiLeaks by politicians around the world. In a statement on December 2, he said the attacks on WikiLeaks were an affront to free speech and the public’s right to know.

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“Attacks on WikiLeaks can also be seen as attacks on the Australian media outlets which have worked with the organisation to publish leaked material,” Alliance Federal Secretary and IFJ Asia-Pacific steering committee member Christopher Warren said.

“Allegations that the work of WikiLeaks is somehow illegal are yet to be proven in Australia, or in any other country. The Alliance and IFJ Asia-Pacific calls on governments to refrain from prejudicial speculation that risks harming our democratic system.”

The statement raises concerns about the potential precedent if Assange is charged, saying “it would seriously curtail Australian media organisations reporting on subjects the Government decides are against its interests”.

The Australian Government’s stance on WikiLeaks also came under fire from veteran political journalist Laurie Oakes, a Walkley Foundation advisory board member, in his December 9 acceptance speech of Australian journalism’s highest accolade, the Gold Walkley award. Oakes received the award for a report based on information leaked during Australia’s federal election.

The statement from Australian journalists can be found here:

The IFJ statement from December 2 can be found here:

Laurie Oakes’ acceptance speech on December 9 can be found here:


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