WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian AssangeREUTERS

The Australian government could charge social media users with crime for sharing details of a gag order revealed by WikiLeaks this week.

The order bans journalists and others from reporting some of the details of an international corruption probe.

The latest WikiLeaks scoop revealed that the gag order was passed following a multi-million dollar corruption probe, which named the current and past heads of states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, their relatives and other senior officials.

WikiLeaks published the gag order passed by the Supreme Court of Victoria, which found seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) guilty of corrupt practices.

The gag order not only bans journalists from publishing the names of the officials connected to the probe but also general public, the WikiLeaks report revealed.

"The concept of 'national security' is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere. It is in the public interest for the press to be able to report on this case, which concerns the subsidiaries of the Australian central bank," WikiLeaks' co-founder Julian Assange said about the order.

The individuals protected include "any current or former Prime Minister of Malaysia", "Truong Tan San, currently President of Vietnam", "Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (also known as SBY), currently President of Indonesia (since 2004)", and a former president of Indonesia.

The gag order has created quite a situation for Australian media houses to report the issue.

ABC News' radio show PM's host Mark Colvin reported: "We begin with a story widely available in other countries and all over the internet, but PM is legally prohibited from telling it to you."

Meanwhile Sydney Morning Herald noted: "The suppression order is itself suppressed. No Australian media organisation can legally publish the document or its contents."

Media lawyer Peter Bartlett told Austrailian daily The Age that while it was possible for the court to prosecute anyone who shared the link on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platforms, such a scenario has never arose till now.

Bartlett also noted it is difficult to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange as they are not in Australia but the court can find someone within Australia who could have leaked the documents.

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