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Tuesday, 07 August 2018 11:37

Journalists' union MEAA appears to have no time for Assange

Journalists' union MEAA appears to have no time for Assange Pixabay

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union for journalists in Australia, does not appear to have anything to say about the plight of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly six years and faces imminent expulsion.

The organisation has not responded to a request for comment sent by iTWire on the morning of 2 August through the only means available – a Web form on the organisation's website.

Emails sent to communications director Mark Phillips and communications manager/media Mike Dobbie did not elicit any response. The federal president Marcus Strom does not appear to have an email address at the organisation; even mail sent to his work address at Fairfax Media bounced.

Considering that there are often complaints from the media about companies, politicians and organisations not providing contact details, the MEAA's lack of media contacts on the site is rather strange.

In the request for comment, iTWire wrote:

"I would like to know if the MEAA has any position on the current position of Australian publisher Julian Assange who is facing imminent eviction from the Ecuador embassy in London and possible extradition to the US where he fears he may face a death sentence for having published/broadcast leaked material on US security matters.

"There have been a number of stories in recent days about Assange; we have a small story here.

"What position does the MEAA have on Assange – is he a journalist and covered by the US first amendment? Why is the mainstream media silent on the issue?"

Strangely, though the MEAA talks a lot about press freedom, there are just two references to Assange on its website – and one is in a book extract in its report into press freedom in Australia in 2018. The other is in an article about data retention written in 2015.

In response to iTWire's submission via its Web form, this canned reply was received:

"Thank you for your inquiry.

"If you have submitted an inquiry related to an industrial issue, your email will be forwarded on to the MEAA industrial team. You should be contacted by that area within the next 24-72 business hours depending on their current case load.

"For all other inquiries, we will attempt to respond inside 48 business hours.

"Please note, as a member-based organisation access to advice and information is reserved for our fee paying members. If you are not a member, whilst we will attempt to assist where possible, we may be limited in the information we are able to provide."

Judging by that response, perhaps Assange needs to join the organisation and pay his dues in order for his plight to be noticed.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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