The Sydney Peace Foundation awarded its “gold medal for peace with justice” to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange on February 2 in recognition of his “exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights”.
This award is different from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize. The foundation has awarded the gold medal on only three previous occasions: the Dalai Lama in 1998; Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.
The Sydney Peace Foundation said: “WikiLeaks has exposed the extent to which governments, the military and business all over the world have used ‘secrecy’ to cloak their real intentions and activities.”
Foundation Director, Professor Stuart Rees told Green Left Weekly: “We awarded Julian Assange the medal because we think the revelations by WikiLeaks represent a real watershed in politics and journalism around the world.
“The courage of Assange and his colleagues challenges the notion that we have to be kept in the dark.”
Rees also drew a parallel between Assange, who is being investigated by a US grand jury, and the great radical writer Thomas Paine.
“In 1792, Paine was investigated by a grand jury in the UK for publishing The Rights of Man,” said Rees. “It was later shown that the grand jury was rigged, even though it charged Paine with sedition.
“Protecting those who represent freedom of speech is as pertinent today as 200 years ago.”
The foundation says it intends to present the medal to Assange in Sydney in May, or in London later in 2011.
It has also initiated a public forum at Sydney Town Hall on March 16 titled “War on WikiLeaks: Breaking the Australian Silence”. Speakers will include the award-winning journalist John Pilger, the federal MP for Denison Andrew Wilkie, and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside.
Norwegian MP Snorre Valen announced on February 2 that he had nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He said on his blog on February 2 that WikiLeaks “should instead be protected, regardless of what we might think of the contents of some (or even all) of the published material. I am proud to nominate Wikileaks for the Nobel Peace Prize”.
[For more details of the March 16 public forum phone (02) 9351 4468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ]