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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Julian Assange/Democracy on Trial by John Tognolini

Below was my submission for Julian Assange for the Australian of the Australian of the Year Awards for 2011. It was published in the Dubbo Liberal and Mudgee Guardian last December while he was in solitary confinement in a London prison cell.

"I support his nomination for Australian of the Year because he's shown courage in letting the truth be known. Also the injustice he is suffering brings in to question what does democracy mean in Australia in the 21st Century?  To me the best definition is by an Australian about democracy is by three times Miles Franklin winner David Ireland,  1927-   in his 1971  novel The Glass Canoe (winner of Miles Franklin 1971)

 "Democracy is not for people who just want to be left alone, so long as they do what their told and don’t answer back. The key people in the democratic process are the critics, dissenters, reformers. If their sealed off from the political process, the system grows tired and sick, and turns into something else."

And also what Julian  said in below in the British Guardian last week

"I am an Australian citizen and I miss my country a great deal. However, during the last weeks the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the attorney general, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return is impossible but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people. This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen - does that mean anything at all? Or are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties."

Of course he did not win the award, but he came second for Time magazine's individual of the year. He faces the prospect of doing a lengthy prison sentence in the United States. Our prime minister Gillard has said Assange’s release of US diplomatic cables was an "illegal act", but the Australian Federal Police have contradicted her, clearing him of any illegal activity.

Julian Assange's next trial in a London court is on February 8. What is on trial with him is investigative journalism and democracy itself. We're also on trial as Australians too, if we are going stand by and let Julian Assange become a 21st Century version of Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock.
Published in the New South Wales Teachers Federation journal Education February 14

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