Julian Assange

Australian publisher and activist Julian Assange

Australian publisher and activist Julian Assange

Julian Assange is perhaps the most high-profile peace activist in the world today.  The 39 year-old Australian computer programmer is the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is an online conduit for whistle-blowing documents:

“an ingenious and heroic website that has shifted the power balance between citizen and the state by exposing what governments really get up to in our name”.

It has raised the ire of the US Government by publishing the so-called Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs, including the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ footage, plus thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables – the same material that US soldier Bradley Manning is accused of leaking. This collection of documents has shown to the world the brutal truth of these wars.

The backlash against Julian Assange has been severe. Presently under house arrest and close surveillance in England, although not charged with any offence, he faces extradition to Sweden, a hub of the USA’s extraordinary rendition program.  If extradited to Sweden, Assange faces a secret trial and further extradition to the US where a WikiLeaks Grand Jury has already begun summoning witnesses.

WikiLeaks itself has come under extraordinary attack. Its bank accounts have been frozen, while PayPal and credit card companies Mastercard and Visa refuse to accept donations for either WikiLeaks or Assange’s legal defence. The online ‘drop box’ where secrets can be sent has been sabotaged. Internet service providers (ISPs) have also been pressured not to host WikiLeaks itself. All this before Assange or anyone to do with WikiLeaks has been charged with anything.

This is an attack not just on the peace movement, but on the right to freedom of expression, which includes both WikiLeaks’ right to impart information and our right to “seek and receive” it.  The US, along with 166 other nations, is legally bound to respect and protect this universal human right.

The Sydney Peace Foundation recently awarded Julian Assange its Gold Medal for “exceptional courage in the pursuit of human rights” and “in recognition of the need for greater transparency and accountability of governments”:

“The Sydney Peace Medal recognises Assange’s leadership, courage and tenacity in journalism and publishing, and pays tribute to his enduring conviction that truth matters and justice depends on it.”

The peace movement and Swan Island Peace Convergence 2011 stand in solidarity with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning as they each pay a high personal price for demanding the truth about war be told to the people of the world.