Global Outcry After Australia Moves to Ban Entry of Whistleblower Chelsea Manning

Human rights groups and free speech defenders around the world are speaking out on Thursday after the Australian government moved aggressively to block Chelsea Manning—the U.S. Army whistleblower who was imprisoned by her own government after leaking hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents, including evidence of war crimes—from entering the country as part of a global speaking tour.

“By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government.”
—Claire Mallinson, Amnesty InternationalThe company organizing Manning’s tour, Think Inc., according to NBC News,

Hugh de Kretser, the executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, told Guardian Australia: “As a democracy, we should be encouraging not banning public contributions from people like Chelsea Manning.”

He added that Manning is “generating vital debate around issues like secret mass surveillance of citizens by governments. The visa should be granted.”

The Australian Privacy Foundation, which advocates for privacy rights and free speech, tweeted:

In its statement, Amnesty International accused the newly-formed right-wing government of trying to silence Manning. “By refusing her entry, the Australian government would send a chilling message that freedom of speech is not valued by our government,” Claire Mallinson, Amnesty International’s national director in Australia, said in a statement.

According to the Guardian:

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But her defenders say it is proposterous to consider Manning a “risk” to Australia’s security.

Australian attorney Greg Barns, who has represented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, said in his statement that people with criminal records have been allowed into Australia in the past and that “no one would seriously suggest” Manning was a risk.

Tim Singleton Norton, chair of the Australia-based Digital Rights Watch, called the move “nothing more than a political stunt designed to appease the current US administration, and an unnecessary imposition on the movements of a world-renowned civil rights activist.”

Calling the ban “a gross overreach of the powers afforded to the Minister for Immigration,” Norton said that “Ms. Manning does not pose a threat to the Australian public, and to block her from entering the country is to take away Australians’ right to hear her story.”

The Australian government, Norton added, frequently talks “about freedom of speech, but this rarely seems to be extended to defend those who profess opinions that are not aligned with their own.”

With supporters using the #LetChelseaSpeak hashtag to promote the story, Amnesty International launch this petition as a way to pressure the Australian government.

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