WASHINGTON: Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks webite gained notoriety for releasing thousands of secret US cables, said Wednesday that his group has faced its “greatest struggle” for press freedoms in the United States.
“There is no doubt the US government has tried to terrorize whistleblowers into not revealing important information to the public,” Assange told reporters in a conference call from his house arrest in the United Kingdom, where he’s awaiting trial on sex-crimes
He made the conference call to mark the one-year anniversary of the detention of Bradley Manning, the army private accused of leaking thousands of classified US documents published by WikiLeaks over the past several months.
The jailed US soldier, held for months at a marine brig in Virginia, is currently detained at a federal facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“A little over four-and-a-half years ago, we invited others to bring the First Amendment to the world,” Assange said, referring to the free speech rights guaranteed under the US Constitution.
“Within a few months, in 2007, we had been banned by the Chinese government, and by the end of the year, we had been banned by Iran,” Assange told reporters.
“But we realized that our greatest struggle (came) in 2010 as we tried to bring the First Amendment to the United States,” he said.
Also taking part in the press conference were other critics of Manning’s detention, including Daniel Ellsberg, the former Pentagon defense analyst who leaked the top secret Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War.
Manning’s supporters have decried the conditions of his detention for months, particularly during a period when he was held in isolation and forced to remain naked in his cell.
Manning, who was arrested on May 26, 2010, is expected to be formally charged this summer.
“During the last year, we have seen our struggle played out in international media and we see it now playing out behind bars,” Assange said.
“We can see on the one hand, a year of journalistic miracles, the most important year of world journalism since World War II,” he said.
Assange has denied knowing the source of the leaks, but has defended Manning as a victim of US government mistreatment.
“We can see a year where this young man has been holed up in very difficult conditions, first in Baghdad, then in Kuwait, in isolation… then in Quantico, Virginia, where he faced an intense pressure to comply with interrogation,” Assange said.