WikiLeaks won the 2011 Walkley award for the “most outstanding contribution to journalism” on November 27. The Walkleys are annual awards for excellence in Australian journalism.
In giving the award, the Walkley Foundation said WikiLeaks had “shown a courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.
“WikiLeaks applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.
“Its revelations, from the way the war on terror was being waged, to diplomatic bastardry, high-level horse-trading and the interference in the domestic affairs of nations, have had an undeniable impact.
“This innovation could just as easily have been developed and nurtured by any of the world’s major publishers — but it wasn’t.
“Yet so many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.
“While not without flaws, the Walkley Trustees believe that by designing and constructing a means to encourage whistleblowers, WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange took a brave, determined and independent stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empowered people all over the world.
“And in the process, they have triggered a robust debate inside and outside the media about official secrecy, the public’s right to know, and the future of journalism.”
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange accepted the award and gave the pre-recorded speech below.
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Thank you for this award for the outstanding contribution to journalism.
They say that telling the truth is no way to win friends. They say that the Australian people don’t care for the truth. Well, they’re wrong. The Australian people want to know the truth about war. They want to know who they can trust. They want to know how the world is shaped around them. They want to find a way through complexity and lies.
Yes, our work has given us a lot of powerful enemies. But it has also given us good friends. It has brought out the best in people: courage, loyalty, compassion and strength. And tonight I want to thank you and the Walkley Foundation for showing these values, as journalists and as Australians, in standing by WikiLeaks in our hour of need; not in five years time, but today when it counts. And I want to thank all of those who have continued to stand by us — out sources, our donors, our defenders — people without whom we could do nothing.
We journalists are at our best when we share with activists and lawyers the goal of exposing illegality and wrong-doing — when we help hold others to account. This award is a sign of encouragement to our people and other people who labour under difficult conditions in this task.
Our lives have been threatened, attempts have been made to censor us, banks have attempted to shut off our financial lifeline. An unprecedented banking blockade has shown us that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, the Bank of American and Western Union are mere instruments of Washington foreign policy. Censorship in this manner has been privatized.
Powerful enemies are testing the water to see how much they can get away with, seeing how they can abuse the system that they’ve integrated with to prevent scrutiny. Well, the answer is: they can get away with too much. I expected the hate-speech on Fox News, but not the calls by US Senators for the extra-judicial assassination of myself and my staff. Neither did I expect that the United States would aggressively undermine its own constitution to persecute me and my organisation. But I can understand the Washington elites’ reaction. Washington is waging a war against the truth. It was, after all, the truth about Washington and its friends that we revealed.
What I cannot understand is the craven behaviour of the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It is embarrassing. Does she really think she can become Obama’s deputy and then run off with his friends and his job, in the manner that she did with Kevin Rudd and so many before him?
It won’t work this time. The US constitution won’t permit it. It is time Julia Gillard stops sucking up to power and started using the power she does has to the benefit of the Australian people.
This time last year, Julia Gillard commissioned an absurd, whole-of-government task force against us, comprising of ASIO, ASIS, the department of defense, the Attorney General’s office and the Australian Federal Police. The prime minister falsely stated that WikiLeaks had acted illegally. The AFP had to take the embarrassing role of correcting her.
The Attorney General [Robert McClelland] stated that he was looking into canceling my passport, while I was under dire circumstances. After pressure from the Australian people and the Australian media, McClellan decided not to, saying not that it was wrong, but that it was helpful for tracing my movements. When I was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for our work, the Australian High Commission [in London] refused to host it. These and other acts will be an infamous memory in Australian journalism.
We are smeared and attacked by powerful groups from the United States, including the US state department and the Bank of America. A grand jury in Washington has spend the best part of a year trying to indict me and our people for espionage.
One of our alleged sources, the young intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, has been held in solitary confinement and under inhumane and degrading conditions. The UN Special Rapporteur for Torture and Amnesty International have equally been prevented from seeing him.
I personally have spent over 350 days under house arrest. I have not been charged with any crime in any country, but my name is constantly smeared. Our supporters in the United States, in Great Britain and in Europe have been arrested en masse with over 78 raids on various individuals.
The reaction to WikiLeaks has demonstrated that, in the West, such attacks are no less vicious than in other parts of the world. They are simply more sophisticated. Washington has become an empire, not only of force, but of lies. The Australian government has refused to say whether it would block my extradition to the United States from Australia, but it has acknowledged that it has the political discretion to do so. The Gillard government has shown its true colours in relation to how it has handled US pressure on WikiLeaks.
The Australian journalists are courageous, the Australian people are supportive, but Julia Gillard is a cowardly Australian prime minister. As Australians we shall not despair; as long as we can speak out, as long as we can publish, and as long as the internet remains free, we will continue to fight back, armed with the truth.