Assange speaks to Melbourne rally

February 12, 2011
Defend WikiLeaks rally, Melbourne, January 29. Assange said the present time constitutes ‘a generational challenge’. Photo:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange delivered a pre-recorded video address to a public meeting at Melbourne’s Federation Square on February 4. Below is the transcript of Assange’s speech.


Thank you so much for coming to this rally. Your presence here and your support, in homes, workplaces, online and elsewhere is exactly what is needed to keep us strong.

I really wish I could be with you in person. I can’t wait to be back in Melbourne, where I’ve fond memories of taking a tram up Swanston St, dropping in at Trades Hall and having my favourite coffee at The New Internationalist Bookshop.

Although we are far apart at the moment, I follow news from home regularly. I’ve been heartened, not just by the stories of support for our organisation, but the stories of courage and kindness that everyday Australians have shown to one another during the floods.

That too is a matter of comfort to all us who believe in basic human decency.

As a journalist, I’m used to reporting the news rather than addressing rallies, but these are not ordinary times. The times we are going through constitute a generational challenge.

The US civil rights struggles of the 1950s also constituted a generational challenge. As did the peace movement of the late 1960s, feminist movements in different periods of the 20th century and the awakening environmental consciousness that has taken hold in recent years.

For the internet generation, this is our challenge and this is our time.

We support a cause that is no more radical a proposition than that the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state.

The state has asserted its authority by surveilling, monitoring and regimenting all of us. All the while hiding behind cloaks of security and opaqueness. Surely it was only a matter of time before citizens pushed back and we asserted our rights.

This brings me to another point.

We at WikiLeaks recognise the difference between secrecy and privacy. Individuals, not governments, have the right to privacy. Strong powers must be held to account while the weak must be protected.

We believe in transparent power, not in transparent people. We publish material that is in the public interest.

For us, as the European Court of Human Rights and the British Court of Appeal have held, the decisive factor in balancing the protection of private life against freedom of expression should lie in the contribution the material has to make to the debate of general interest.

It is surely a matter of public interest that Australian politicians secretly brief foreign embassies — in effect, providing them with intelligence on the Australian government, while concealing these vital facts from those who actually elected them to office.

WikiLeaks has brought this important information to the public.

It is surely a matter of public interest that the US secretary of state has been running a secret intelligence campaign directed at the leadership of the United Nations demanding passwords, DNA, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, email addresses and so on.

That targeting is illegal under the 1946 UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities and illegal under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

And it is surely a matter of public interest that the Labor government has been working secretly to shield from prosecution Indonesian military figures who killed an Australian journalist in East Timor.

WikiLeaks brought this information out to the public as well.

It would appear that the Labor government today is doing what the Labor government did in 1975 regarding East Timor — talking about human rights while trying to downplay attacks on journalists.

Because you and I should be in no doubt on one thing: we are a media organisation, I am a publisher and a journalist.

I’ve been a member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance — Australia’s big journalists union — for years. I published my first book when I was 25.

There have been outrageous and illegal calls to have me and my staff killed — clear cases of incitement to violence — yet the Australian government has condoned this behaviour by its diplomatic silence.

I find it interesting that some politicians have no intention of applying the precautionary principle when it comes to the environment, but assert it when it comes to our reporting.

They conjure hypothetical scenarios and claim that somehow, someday our stories might somehow harm someone, somewhere.

But we have a four-year publishing history — a history of not harming a single individual anywhere. They provide no evidence of actual harm. So I say to you: that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without argument.

And it is interesting how some politicians single out my staff and myself, while saying nothing about the slaughter of thousands by the US military or other dictatorships, and saying nothing about the much wealthier, powerful news organisations that publish material in partnership with us.

It is cowardly to bully a small media organisation — but that is what is happening here.

We are eternally grateful to your strong support in helping us stand up to the bullies. Julia Gillard should be taking active steps to bring me home and to protect our people.

She should be contacting the US embassy and demanding that it back off.

As for the future, we are as determined as ever. With your help and support we’ll make our way through this storm and continue to publish and hold powerful and abusive organisations to account.

I want to assure you that we will not mimic the timidity and subservience to power that some other media organisations have. If that is what it is to go mainstream, then we are happy to stay where we are — at the front line of the truth.

We will, as Don Chipp dreamed, try to keep the bastards honest.

We have been deeply moved by the concern Australians have shown for us, but I ask that you turn your concern into action.

Insist the attacks on my staff and organisation stop.

Insist that I be allowed to return home.

Insist that the Australian government come clean on all its interactions with foreign powers in relation to our organisation.

Thank you for your good will. We’ll keep the faith strong and you’ll keep us strong.

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