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Joining the likes of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was, on Wednesday at London’s Frontline Club, awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation’s top honour for “exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights”.
The Sydney Peace Foundation selects the recipient of their Sydney Peace Prize and have an overall aim of developing the understanding the value of peace with justice in different contexts across the globe.
Assange, who launched the controversial publisher of private, secret and classified media from anonymous sources in 2006, is at the moment fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden where he is wanted for a raft of sex crime allegations including “sex by surprise“, by some reports. Assange is also Australian.
Overlooking all this, Assange –- who also recently made headlines for calling Facebook “the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented” — was praised and rewarded with the Sydney Peace Prize’s Gold Medal.
The event, held annually to hand out a Peace Prize has in it’s fourteen year history only ever selected three other individuals to receive the accolade, “gold award for courage in pursuit of human rights”: The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Japanese Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda.
According to the foundation, the “Sydney Peace Medal recognises Assange’s leadership, courage and tenacity in journalism and publishing, and pays tribute to his enduring conviction that truth matters and justice depends on it.”
Former member of the Australian Human Rights Consultation Committee and veteran broadcaster, Mary Kostakidis – who presented the award to Assange – said of Wikileaks, “[it is an] ingenious and heroic website that has shifted the power balance between citizen and the state by exposing what governments really get up to in out name”.
She went on to effusively pronounce that “exposing secrets can be dangerous business”, and thanked Assange for his “heroic courage” as a whistleblower, willing to take “great risks for our benefit”.
When accepting the award, Assange announced, “The real value of this award, and the Sydney Peace Foundation is that it makes explicit the link between peace and justice”.
He continued, saying, “It does not take the safe feel good option of shunning controversy by uttering platitudes. Instead it goes into difficult terrain by identifying organisations and individuals who are directly engaged in struggles of one kind or another.”
“With WikiLeaks we are all engaged in a struggle, a generational struggle for a proposition that citizens have a right and a duty to scrutinise the state”, he said.
Noted amongst supporters of Assange receiving this honour was Noam Chomsky, a questioner of whether Osama Bin Laden was truly the mastermind of 9/11, whom the foundation states is “the greatest intellectual influence in the Western world for the past forty years”.
Professor Chomsky said of the foundation and Assange, “I thank you profusely for the way in which you have exercised your responsibilities as a citizen of free societies, and thus enabling citizens to know what their government is doing”.