There have been many negative things said about WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange, except apparently nothing as damaging as the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s words.
In a radio interview she gave in 2010, she insisted that Assange had broken the law with the release of the thousands of U.S diplomatic cables by his organization, WikiLeaks. In response to this, Assange has stated that he will be suing the prime minister for defamation, claiming that his actions are not illegal and that these words are indeed damning to both his cause and reputation.
“We are considering suing for defamation so I have hired lawyers in Sydney and they are investigating the different ways in which we can sue Gillard over this statement,” Assange said.
“Mastercard Australia in justifying why it has made a blockade that prevents any Australian Mastercard holder from donating to WikiLeaks, used that statement by Julia Gillard this year as justification.”
Indeed, since these words by the Prime Minister, a financial blockade has been placed over WikiLeaks, not allowing any more donations from donators. This in turn has led to WikiLeaks placing a donation overlay page over where it keeps its Global Intelligence Files, and many more. This overlay page can only be removed when a donation is made. This has made many supporters angry, including, notably, what is often named as a WikiLeaks friend, partner, or protector, Anonymous, a hacktivist organisation.
Ironically, it was Julie Bishop, the right-wing Deputy Opposition Leader, that jumped to defend Assange and WikiLeaks after Gillard’s remarks were made, telling Sky News “I’m not aware of any law that Julian Assange has broken in Australia”. This is highly peculiar, as WikiLeaks is largely referred to as a left-wing cause.
Assumedly, the reason why Gillard has chosen to write off Assange’s actions as illegal is because Australia doesn’t want to upset its political relations with the U.S, as they are largely the ones running this Wikileaks saga, desperately wanting to charge Assange for espionage or as others have stated publicly, have him assassinated. It was made quite clear by Assange in his speech from the Ecuadorian Embassy balcony that he knew this, asking the U.S. directly to stop the “witch hunt” against WikiLeaks, and condemning his home country’s lack of support for him.
Has perhaps the Australian government been too harsh on Assange, abandoning their own citizen, when it can be argued his only crime is trying to reveal the crimes of others? Why are we so willing to abandon our citizens? For example, Australian citizen David Hicks was held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp from 2001 until 2007 for allegedly providing material support for terrorism, and claims to have been tortured by the U.S. military. However, Hick’s character arguably isn’t as morally courageous as Assange’s is, but even he had more support from the government/public, being released from Guantanamo Bay after extreme pressure. Hicks even scored a book deal detailing his ordeal.
Hicks even spoke out for Assange recently, seemingly having something in common with him, as the video below details.
While the government may not be behind Assange, there are other forces within Australia that are. Activisit organization GetUp!’s current campaign entitled ‘Protect Free Speech’, includes a recent exclusive interview with Assange himself, and includes an online petition to Bob Carr that asks for, “the Australian Government to stand up for the rights of all Australian citizens, and not allow Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States. “
Mary Kostakidis, a GetUp! member, in a recent interview had this to say on Assange’s treatment, “I am greatly disturbed by what’s happening to Julian Assange. It overturns centuries of historic and legal precedent protecting freedom of the press, and exposes journalists around the world to the vengeance and tyranny of governments anywhere.”
However, while some lawyers believe that Assange’s threat to sue Gillard is simply a political stunt, as usual, the world will have to wait and see what happens next within the WikiLeaks saga.