Big Sydney forum defends WikiLeaks, Assange

Saturday, February 18, 2012 – By Simon Butler, Sydney

More than 400 people crowded into a lecture theatre at the University of Technology on February 17 to attend a public forum, “Don’t shoot the messenger: WikiLeaks, Assange and Democracy”.

Speakers at the forum included socialist historian Humphrey McQueen, Greens Senator Scott Ludlum, London-based human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Christine Assange, the mother of Julian Assange.

Veteran journalist and former SBS broadcaster Mary Kostakidis chaired the meeting. She told the audience WikiLeaks had won several prestigious awards for excellence in journalism. She said the US government is persecuting WikiLeaks for publishing material that other media outlets have also published. The difference was that WikiLeaks has done it better, she said.

McQueen gave historical examples of how ruling elites have always tried to restrict the public’s access to information, lest they learn enough to want to challenge the social order. He said WikiLeaks’ revelations are dangerous to elite interests because they help educate people about the real nature of society.

Ludlum said he was pleased with the big turnout and denounced the Labor government’s attacks on WikiLeaks and Assange. He urged WikiLeaks supporters to put the pressure on the government to choose democracy and freedom of speech over the US-Australia alliance.

Robinson said Julian Assange has been held in custody for more than a year but has been charged with no crime in any country in the world. She also said WikiLeaks has been crippled by an illegal financial blockade by big companies such as Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

Robinson, who is part of Assange’s legal team, said Assange faces a very real threat that he will be extradited to the United States from Sweden or Britain.

Christine Assange said when she first heard of the charges against Julian, she reacted as any mother would. But since then, she said she had studied WikiLeaks’ releases on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and the leaked US diplomatic cables, which gave her a wider appreciation of the importance of WikiLeaks’ work.

She said she was very frustrated at the mainstream media’s misleading reports on WikiLeaks and Julian’s case.

The newly formed Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition organised the meeting, with the support of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism and Stop the War Coalition, Sydney.

More than 400 people attended a forum on WikiLeaks and democracy, February 17. Photo: Peter Boyle

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