Julian Assange is best known as the founder and public face of WikiLeaks, the Internet-based publishing organization which makes headlines around the world by releasing suppressed information about corporate, government and military corruption and misconduct.
He first came to global prominence in 2010 with the release of a video suppressed by the US military, which showed a US Army helicopter attacking and killing civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists.
Since its founding in 2006, WikiLeaks has published several million documents. Its best-known publication sets were the Afghan and Iraqi War Logs which removed the fog of misinformation surrounding those conflicts; and the US Diplomatic Cables, which exposed to the public the candid assessments made by US diplomats of regimes and leaders around the world. The release of these cables strengthened the hands of anti-corruption fighters in countries all around the world, including in Tunisia, where the “Arab Spring” began.
But their release also severely embarrassed the US Government, and WikiLeaks has felt the consequences of this perceived humiliation ever since. The US has aggressively, but ultimately unsuccessfully, attempted to shut down WikiLeaks and silence its founder, Julian Assange.
Assange and WikiLeaks have, in the words of 60 Minutes “Rattled the worlds of journalism, diplomacy, and national security.”
In 2012 Assange co-authored the book Cypherpunks about the encroaching mass surveillance of the internet. When Edward Snowden, the former NSA intelligence contractor, revealed the detail and extent of mass US government surveillance, WikiLeaks stepped in with legal and logistical advice and successfully helped him avoid US extradition and gain political asylum.
Assange is a subtle political thinker, a radical democrat, and an audacious dissident in the digital age.
He was a pioneer of the internet and helped bring it to Australia in the early 1990s. He believes that the first value to emerge from the new global civilisation of the digital age is the right to communicate: to receive and transmit information across boundaries. He asserts that the truth should be available to all. He believes passionately in the transparency of power that “the citizenry has a right to scrutinise the state”, especially a state which “hides behind cloaks of security and opaqueness.”
- Amnesty International UK: New Media Award (2009 UK)
- Sam Adams Associates: Award for Integrity in Intelligence (2009 USA)
- Le Monde: Man of the Year (2010 France)
- Sydney Peace Foundation: Gold Medal for “exceptional courage and initiative in the pursuit of human rights” (2011 Australia)
- Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (2011 UK)
- Voltaire Award of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties (2011 Australia)
- Voice of the West Award (2011 Spain)
- Walkley’s Award for Most Outstanding Contribution To Journalism (2011 Australia)
- Co-recipient of the 2012 FPP Peace Prize
- The Newsweek Daily Beast Digital Power Index: Revolutionary First Place (2012 USA)
- Yoko Ono Courage Award (2013 USA)
- Global Exchange Annual Human Rights Award: “People’s Choice” (2013 USA) honoured alongside Noam Chomsky.
Freedom and the Future of the Internet
Visionary WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange brings together a small group of cutting-edge thinkers and activists to discuss whether electronic communications will emancipate or enslave. Among the topics addressed are: Do Facebook and Google constitute "the greatest surveillance machine that ever existed," perpetually tracking people's locations, contacts and lives? Far from being victims of that surveillance, are most people willing collaborators? Are there legitimate forms of surveillance? And does anyone have the ability to resist this tide?