It is likely that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will find out on January 4 next year whether he will finally be extradited to the US and face 175 years in jail.

Assange – who is 49 years old – faces 18 charges, including plotting to hack computers and conspiring to gather and disclose national defence information.

The mathematics ‘genius’ is said to have conspired with notorious defence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack an encrypted password on US Department of Defence computers.

WikiLeaks is not a news platform, does not have a mandate to deliver properly defined news. And it doesn’t adhere to any real defined editorial controls.

But the decision in January could not only throw Assange into hellish hidden celebrity for the rest of his life, it could have massive consequences on the freedom of the world’s press.

So, sadly, all of us REAL journalists need to back the man often described as an ‘information terrorist’ no matter what we think about him personally.

Many hard-boiled journalists like myself believe that he is a great pretender as far as investigative journalism is concerned … yes, he has co-authored a book and, sure, he is an honorary member of an Australian journalist’s union.

And, let’s face it, he did reveal secrets people wanted to keep quiet. That is a cornerstone of a journalists job.

But it is the way he did it all that is the problem.

A large part of the news industry agrees with me and, certainly, he should have many ethical questions to answer.

Put simply, he was instrumental in publishing vast amounts of unedited material which, almost certainly, put his sources at risk.

None of it had been through the necessary journalistic processes and considerations it needed.

‘WikiLeaks’s method of dumping data on the public without looking in to the motivations of the leakers leaves it open to manipulation,’ Committee to Protect Journalists boss Joel Simon said.

Also Assange fell out with the editors of The Guardian and the Times who were at least attempting to apply proper tests of journalism.

And don’t forget he is a hacker – something any real journalist would not stoop to (or at least would never admit to these days).

He has been accused of rape too, the case against him only being dropped because “the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question”.

Julian is also a fugitive from the law and has broken bail … there’s lots more of course.

But with all this said, it is true that his case could have an irreparable effect on journalism and so we journalists need to fight his corner.

Not for him, but for our own sakes and the sake of a free and informed world.

If successful, his prosecution would be likely to criminalise investigative journalists.

His prosecution is a real threat to journalists around the world who could potentially be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

As journalists we need to fight for freedom of speech and the freedom of the Press to report. We can not let the right to gather, receive, or publish information of public interest be eroded.

Otherwise we might as well shut down the presses and go home.

The liars, the cheats, the conmen, the criminals, the politicians and the conglomerates will have won at a time when the common man and woman are already on their knees because of a very suspect pandemic.

So, sadly, right now we have to stand up for Assange and be counted.

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