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As Assange walks free, multifaceted threats to journalism and the truth are bigger than ever

The now famous Collateral Murder video released by WikiLeaks showing the US army shooting civilians, including children, in Baghdad and laughing about it was very difficult viewing.

As Assange stepped onto Australian soil on Wednesday night a free man, having suffered for serving the basic democratic tenet of free speech and public interest, several things stand out, and they all do one thing – threaten journalism.

The plea deal that Assange signed to be free was no justice. It made him a criminal and set a possible dangerous precedent that if anyone exposed the crimes of the US government, they would be punished.

Journalists have long contended with authoritarian states which bully and kill them, but now we too have to worry about democratic states that ensnare journalists in legal entanglements.

That this saga has lasted this long is in itself a threat to journalists. It may be “rules-based” but its substantial outcome is no different from persecutions of journalists all over the world.

It is also no justice that no one in Washington has been charged with the murders and abuse of civilians that Assange’s WikiLeaks exposed. Focusing on Assange’s crime is a smokescreen for Washington’s wrongdoings.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be freed after US plea deal

Then, there are threats to journalism from within the profession.

Some journalists – and politicians – argued Assange did not follow the accepted methods of the craft, particularly in redacting names in the leaks he published, and was therefore reckless. They also called him narcissistic, vain and divisive.

Journalist Antony Loewenstein, however, said on Australian TV on Wednesday that it came down to this: “Julian wasn’t playing the game – the game that so many