Marking six months since he made the Ecuadorean embassy in London his home, WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange gave an address on the balcony.
He strode out on to the balcony, decorated with a Christmas garland and lights. The first thing he said was, “What a sight for sore eyes.” Then he said, “People ask what gives me hope. Well, the answer is right here.” He proceeded to declare, “Six months ago – 185 days ago – I entered this building. It has become my home, my office and my refuge.”
Assange thanked the Ecuadorean government and its people for giving him a place where he could safely speak out without fear.
He spoke about being “sustained” by the “solidarity” of supporters who have defended the work of WikiLeaks and supported freedom of speech and freedom of the press. He acknowledged that, while his freedom may be limited, he is able to “communicate this christmas, unlike 232 journalists who are in jail tonight.”
Then he listed off others who have been treated like enemies of the state: Pirate Bay co-founder Godfried Svartholm in Sweden, activist Jeremy Hammond in New York, who is accused of hacking into Stratfor, human rights activist Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain and Bradley Manning, “who turned 25 this week” and is “a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10% of this life in jail, some of that time in a cage, naked and without his glasses.”
These are people, “whose plights are linked to my own,” he said. “I salute those journalists and publications that have covered what has and continues to happen to these people, and to journalists and publications that continue publishing the truth in the face of persecution, prosecution and threat – who take journalism and publishing seriously.”
Assange summarized how WikiLeaks remains under a criminal investigation. To those who would suggest it is not ongoing and does not pose great risk to Assange and other WikiLeaks staffers or volunteers, he explained, “The US investigation is referred to in testimony under oath in US courts, is admitted by Department of Justice and by the District Attorney of Virginia as a fact. It’s subpoenas are being litigated in the courts. The Pentagon reissued its threats against me in September and claimed the very existence of Wikileaks is an ongoing crime.”
“My work will not be cowed,” he vouched. “But while this immoral investigation continues, and while the Australian government will not defend the journalism and publishing of Wikileaks, I must remain here.”
Comparing the WikiLeaks financial blockade that has hamstrung the media organization’s ability to collect donations from supporters to the Cuban embargo, Assange recounted 2012, which had been another “huge year” for WikiLeaks.
The media organization released “nearly a million documents” on the war in Syria. It exposed the “mass surveillance state” with the release of thousands of documents from private intelligence companies. It released documents on US policies for treating detainees in prisons like Guantanamo Bay (which Assange called “a symbol of corruption of rule of law in West and beyond.”
WikiLeaks won victories against the financial blockade in courts and in the European parliament. They went from being blockaded and tax deductible nowhere, he said, to being “tax deductible across the entirety of the European Union and the United States.”
He noted that information WikiLeaks revealed in its release of the US State Embassy cables was referenced in a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Khaled El Masri’s kidnap, detention and torture by the CIA.
For those wondering what lied ahead in 2013, Assange said WikiLeaks had “well over a million documents to release, documents that affect every country in the world.” Also, in a veiled statement about a possible run for the Senate in Australia, he said, “In Australia, an unelected Senator will be replaced by one that is elected.”
Assange called for “Washington power brokers” to stop pushing for economic sanctions because President Rafael Correa stood up for his rights. He called on the world to “unite to defend the courageous people of Ecuador against interference in its economy and interference in its elections next year.”
He pledged to make 2013 another year of standing up to bullies and praised Ecuador and Latin American countries for cooperating with each other based on shared values. He celebrated them for not attacking other countries or sending drones to attack any people in any countries of the world.
“True democracy is not the White House. It is not Canberra,” Assange declared. “True democracy is the resistance of people armed with the truth, against lies, from Tahrir to London. Every day, ordinary people teach us that democracy is free speech and dissent. For once we, the people, stop speaking out, and stop dissenting, once we are distracted or pacified, once we turn away from each other, we are no longer free. For true democracy is the sum of our resistance.”
What happens if you stop speaking up? “You surrender your consciousness, your independence, even your sense of what is right and wrong.” He added, “Without knowing it, you become passive and controlled, unable to defend yourself and those you love.”
People, he concluded, always ask him what they can do. He advised, “Learn how the world works.” Challenge statements and intentions of those who seek to control us behind a façade of democracy and monarchy. And “unite in common purpose and common principle to design, build, document, finance and defend.”
Though Assange is still embattled and although there is no sign that he will be able to leave the embassy and go to Ecuador any time soon, it was much more triumphal in spirit. In reminding the world of what WikiLeaks had accomplished in 2012, in noting how the organization appeared to be on the cusp of overcoming a financial blockade, one was left with the thought that WikiLeaks may thrive yet again in the new year.
*Here’s the text of Assange’s full speech posted on the WikiLeaks website.