The letter is signed by journalists and editors from all journalistic walks: the right, the left, the blogosphere, talk-back radio, the national public broadcaster, network and cable news, and the nation’s big legacy papers—with the exception of national broadsheet, The Australian. There is the News Director of talk-back station 2UE Clinton Maynard, the editor-in-chief of Murdoch-owned national site news.com.au David “Penbo” Penberthy, editors-in-chief and editors of each daily covering Sydney and Melbourne and the single dailies covering Brisbane and Adelaide, director of News and Programs for Sky News, Ian Ferguson, and Eric Beecher, chairman of the brilliant Crikey, among others. Aside from The Australian, I see no significant opt-outs. This is a statement virtually on behalf of the Australian media. (I am an Australian, have worked for The Sydney Morning Herald, whose editor-in-chief, Peter Fray, signed the letter, and was a subscriber to the Walkley’s monthly magazine.) And it’s a brave move; something akin (fashioned to scale) of the editors or chiefs of the Times, the Post, NBC, NPR, PBS, CNN, Salon, Slate, the New York Post, etc., teaming up to publish a statement challenging the government’s posturing on WikiLeaks, with only the Journal not signing on.
The note echoes in parts an open letter sent to PM Gillard—who has walked back a statement in which she called WikiLeaks’ actions “illegal” but who has not made any supportive statements of the country’s most hunted citizen—by various academics, artists, and activists on December 7. In many ways, the new letter could be more powerful and persuasive than that letter, and even the one sent by the Columbia faculty members, because it represents such a united front. Every corner of the Australian media landscape is covered here, and the PM, whose honeymoon period was blip-length following her rise to power in a June leadership challenge and her artless fumbling through the August election, would be wary of putting the press further offside.
It will be interesting to see if a similar move is made on this side of the Pacific.
*Note: The Sydney Morning Herald began publishing the “Canberra Cables” last week. Reporter Philip Dorling has an interesting piece on how he came to obtain the papers from the once elusive Assange, with links to the paper’s full WikiLeaks coverage.