Daniel Ellsberg, the American whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media exposing US conduct in the Vietnam war, died last Friday. Ellsberg's courage and honesty has long been a beacon to people working to hold those in power to account.
Ellsberg consistently spoke in support of Julian Assange, who published information provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning about US war crimes in Iraq.
Let's reflect on the integrity and courage of Ellsberg, Assange, and all whistleblowers in our society, willing to put themselves at risk to tell us the truth about what is being done in our name, yet kept hidden.
Since Assange exposed the "collateral murder" video showing US soldiers gunning down two Reuters journalists, numerous civilians, and severely injuring two children, he has spent seven years as a political refugee confined in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and when Ecuador's government changed and would no longer protect him, Assange was imprisoned in the UK's notorious Belmarsh prison. He has been there for four years, facing extradition to the US.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, has described the conditions of Assange's imprisonment as torture. His book, The Trial of Julian Assange, exposes the disinformation and lies that have been widely circulated about Assange, including by the US and Australian governments.
Julian's health has seriously deteriorated in Belmarsh and continues to do so. He has been on a suicide watch. Doctors have expressed concern for his life if extradited to the US where the charges he faces could result in a sentence of 175 years in prison.
Assange's case carries dire implications for journalists everywhere and for the democratic requirement of a free press. If a journalist or publisher in any country can be taken to America to face decades in prison for disclosing information the American government doesn't want disclosed, how many will dare take that risk now?
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said that "enough is enough" and "it has gone on long enough", but refuses to ask clearly for the US to drop these politically motivated charges against an Australian citizen.
David McBride is another Australian whistleblower who has been persecuted after revealing alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
McBride has lost his income, his marriage and endured the ongoing stress of numerous preliminary court hearings over many years. All to no avail. His trial begins in the ACT Supreme Court on November 13.
A court has found on the balance of probabilities that SAS corporal Ben Roberts-Smith committed war crimes in Afghanistan. He is yet to face charges. Yet David McBride has been dragged through the courts for five years and is still facing charges. Will they end up in prison together?
Former Tax Office employee, Richard Boyle, is another Australian whistleblower being persecuted for telling the truth.
Boyle made public the Tax Office's harsh debt recovery processes and was offered payment to keep quiet about it. He refused and went public. He was later sacked and charged with collecting evidence to prove the situation.
He has argued he acted in the public interest, but Australia's weak legislation that is supposed to protect whistleblowers for this has failed him. Boyle will be in the SA Supreme Court on August 9 as he appeals the failure of his public interest defence. He is facing a long prison sentence.
Will the PwC perpetrators of tax avoidance face such a penalty as the years in the courts Boyle has already endured?
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has the power to stop these miscarriages of justice, but has refused to do so.
He says he does not want to interfere in the justice system, despite acknowledging the laws are weak and need strengthening.
The Judiciary Act 1903 Section 71 (1) says, "When any person is under commitment upon a charge of an indictable offence against the laws of the Commonwealth, the Attorney-General or such other person as the Governor-General appoints in that behalf may decline to proceed further in the prosecution..."
What clearer reasons could there be to "decline to proceed" than the unjust McBride and Boyle prosecutions?
The Director of Public Prosecution's guidelines also need to be clarified and strengthened. They require, amongst other things, that a prosecution be "in the public interest".
But it cannot be sufficient that just a statement that "the prosecution is in the public interest", satisfies that requirement and allows such prosecutions as those of McBride and Boyle to proceed.
Mr Dreyfus should act to ensure these travesties of justice are swiftly brought to an end.
The Prime Minister must also take decisive action to achieve freedom for Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks / Tne Canberra Times