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Assange defiant, as Wikileaks wins journalist award

November 27, 2011

Just a few days before his appeal hearing over his extradition to Sweden over  sexual assault allegations, which is believed may well be the prelude for Assange to be extradited to the U.S. for supposed espionage. Wikileaks and Assange himself won a stunning victory for citizens journalism and a free press, after it took out for 2011 Walkley award for most outstanding contribution to journalism.

The Walkley Awards are given out for excellence in Australian journalism and is generally seen as Australia’s equivalent of the Pulitzers. It is hosted by the Walkley foundation, an initiative of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the union covering journalists.

That the award  would go to Wikileaks is a big step forward in recognizing that what Wikileaks does is  not just important journalism but also in the public interest. Beyond this, it is also an important victory in the context of the Australian government refusing to do anything to help Assange, under house arrest 350 days without a charge, even though the award by de-facto recognises himself as one of Australia’s premier journalists of 2011.

Assange made this point quite forcefully in his acceptance speech. He firstly stated that the Australian people “wanted to know the truth about war” and about what powerful interests were seeking to do.  He stated that Wikileaks had made powerful enemies but also many good friends and as a journalist and a Australian he thanked the Walkely foundation for standing by Wikileaks in its hour of need.

He said that as journalists “we are at our best when we hold people to account” he went on to slam corporations and governments seeking to shut down Wikileaks and deny freedom of speech.

Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, who have conspired in attacks against Wikileaks, were “mere instruments of US foreign policy”. “Washington was waging a war against the truth” he said and it was “an empire of force and lies.”

However, while this was expected, he didn’t expect such “craven behaviour from Julia Gillard“, which he called “embarassing”. He called on the  Gillard to “stop sucking up to power and start using power to benefit the Australian people”. The Australian government, he said  “had shown its true colours” in how it has treated Wikileaks and Julia Gillard was a “cowardly prime minister” for not acting to protect Wikileaks and himself.

Lastly, he sent his support to Bradley Manning, a US soldier arrested in May 2010, for allegedly providing information to Wikileaks, was being held in “inhumane and degrading conditions”, as Assange called on the US government to stop attacking Wikileaks supporters and staff around the world. Assange finished his speech by saying forcefully “We will continue to fight back armed with the truth”

For many years Wikileaks has received abuse for just causing chaos, with many professionals scoffing that Assange was not and could not be a journalist. Not only that, US politicians like Newt Gingrich have refered to Assange as an ‘enemy combatant’ and that Julian Assange was engaging not in journalism but “information terrorism”.

This award goes some way to showing what has already been clear to millions around the world who support Wikileaks, that is that Wikileaks is the journalism of the future, where the press and information will truly be free.

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