Mar 252019

The Courage Foundation nominates Julian Assange for the

2019 Galizia Prize for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information.

Julian Assange merits this award on the following grounds:

  1. Based on need

Julian Assange is the only publisher and journalist in the EU formally found to be arbitrarily detained by the UN Human Rights System, which has repeatedly called for his release, most recently on 21 December 2018. He is in dire circumstances, faces imminent termination of his asylum, extradition and life in a US prison for publishing the truth about US wars, and has been gagged and isolated since March 28, 2018. He has been kept in the UK from his young family in France for eight years (where he lived before being arbitrarily detained in the UK), has not seen the sun for almost seven years, and has been found by the United Nations to be subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

If given to Julian Assange, this award will immediately act as a force to push against his gagging and isolation and help him to resist US determination to extradite him from the UK for publishing the truth.

As Daphne Caruana Galizia herself wrote:

“If America could burn Julian Assange at the stake, it would do so. That is the real sadness of what this situation has revealed: that when it comes down to shutting up those who inconvenience us, we’re all brothers and sisters under the skin. It is just a matter of degree. China jails Liu Xiaobo and the United States tries to do the same to Julian Assange.”

The political persecution of Julian Assange resulted in his formal recognition as a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention in 2012, but he has been prevented from enjoying his asylum status because the UK has unlawfully kept him in a situation of arbitrary detention, according two formal findings by the United Nations.

Mounting US pressure and a new government in Ecuador mean that he is at imminent risk of losing his internationally protected status. The Trump administration has sharply intensified its efforts to silence WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have confirmed that secret charges have been brought against Julian Assange over his publications on the US government. This week, Chelsea Manning announced she would refuse to cooperate with US authorities which have called her to testify before the WikiLeaks Grand Jury, and she is likely once again be imprisoned as a result. This development introduces a dangerous situation: it introduces the extraordinary precedent of a source being compelled to testify against a journalist for publishing true information about the government.

News broke in January that Ecuador colluded this year with the US government to have the US officials interrogate nearly a dozen Ecuadorian diplomats in London about Julian Assange. Meanwhile, all the diplomats at the Embassy have been replaced and his asylum has transformed into a highly surveilled form of imprisonment.

The New York Times has reported that Ecuador’s new President proposed to the US immediately on taking office an exchange in which Ecuador would hand over Julian Assange to secure US debt relief. Ecuador secured $4.2 billion in US backed IMF debt relief on 21 February. Medical practitioners who have seen Julian Assange during this time have denounced his deteriorating health situation and called for him to be able to access appropriate health facilities.

The increased intensity of the persecution against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange has prompted numerous members of the human rights community to denounce the actions being taken against him. Dinah PoKempner, Legal Counsel of Human Rights Watch, tweeted in April that

“Whether it agrees or not with what Julian Assange says, Ecuador’s denying him access to the Internet as well as to visitors is incompatible with its grant of asylum.  His refuge in the embassy looks more and more like solitary confinement.”

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire, who Ecuador prevented from visiting Assange, stated that

“I know of no other country where an asylee is held with no sunlight, no exercise, no visitors, no computer, no phone calls, yet all this is happening in the heart of London in the Ecuadorian Embassy, to an innocent man, Julian Assange, now in his 8th year of illegal and arbitrary detention by the United Kingdom Government”.

There is consensus in the international human rights community that the US extradition of Julian Assange should be opposed. The future of the free press hangs in the balance while the UK’s role in trapping Mr. Assange, without charge, over the past nine years, while ignoring UN findings and repeated calls for his release, augurs badly for Mr. Assange’s ability to win a future extradition battle in the UK.

In the context of Ecuador’s shifting geopolitical alliances and improper cooperation with the US government’s prosecution of its asylee, an independent recognition of his persecuted status through this award will make a material difference to Julian Assange’s legal and political ability to resist his extradition to the US. 


  1. Based on consequences for whistleblowers and freedom of the press in Europe (and the US)

Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States would carry serious consequences for press freedom in Europe generally, given the extraterritorial dimension of the US prosecution. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that Julian Assange can be prosecuted because he is not protected by the US Constitution, given that he is a foreigner whose work occurred outside US territory. The publications over which the US seeks to prosecute Mr. Assange (allegedly provided by Chelsea Manning) were published from Europe, in collaboration with European media organisations, while Julian Assange was in Europe.

The US seeks to apply its laws to European journalists and publishers and at the same time strip them of all US constitutional protections, effectively turning Europe into a legal “Guantanamo bay”, where US criminal law is asserted, but US rights are withheld. If the US succeeds in prosecuting Julian Assange, a non-US publisher and journalist, for revealing information the US says is secret, this would open the flood gates to an extremely dangerous precedent: his co-publishers at Der Spiegel, Le Monde, La Repubblica, Espresso, the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Channel 4, among others, all risk extradition to the US, and it will have a chilling effect on the press and national security reporting.

When news broke of Assange’s indictment in November 2018, the Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, observed that it is

“[d]eeply troubling if the Trump administration, which has shown little regard for media freedom, would charge Assange for receiving from a government official and publishing classified information–exactly what journalists do all the time.” 

The New York Times has stated:

“An indictment centering on the publication of information of public interest… would create a precedent with profound implications for press freedoms”.

James Goodale, who was the lawyer representing the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, put it succinctly:

“the prosecution of Assange goes a step further. He’s not a source, he is a publisher who received information from sources. The danger to journalists can’t be overstated.”

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has stated:

“Prosecuting Assange would be dangerously problematic from the perspective of press freedom… and should be strongly opposed.”


  1. Based on the importance of Julian Assange’s contribution to protecting whistleblowers

Julian Assange applied his skills as an investigative journalist and cryptographer to protect journalistic sources, by inventing secure online dropboxes to anonymise sources. Even if one views his contribution to whistleblower protection from this prism alone, Julian Assange has done more to protect whistleblowers than any other individual person. But this effort to protect whistleblowers also permeates Mr. Assange’s work with WikiLeaks.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden stated on WikiLeaks:

“They are absolutely fearless in putting principles above politics… their efforts to build a transnational culture of transparency and source protection are extraordinary – they run towards the risks everyone else runs away from – and in a time when government control of information can be ruthless, I think that represents a vital example of how to preserve old freedoms in a new age”. 

Julian Assange himself advocated for two decades for the institutional recognition of the persecution faced by journalists and their sources, and has argued that this recognition makes a material difference to the fate of the persecuted. By contrast, silencing and imprisonment deters others who are weighing up whether to take the courageous step to blow the whistle. Julian Assange has played a pivotal role in protecting whistleblowers and promoting free access to information by being the founding member of the Courage Foundation (he resigned in 2015 due to his circumstances). He also played a crucial role in the establishment of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Icelandic Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, personally drafting model legislation to protect whistleblowers in journalists. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have also advised on policies to protect sources and whistleblowers, including through submissions to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech (see below).

Julian Assange directed the 2013 rescue of whistleblower Edward Snowden from US extradition from Hong Kong, managed his successful asylum process and deployed and funded WikiLeaks’ Investigations Editor Sarah Harrison to personally guide Snowden through the entire process. Harrison’s courage was recognised through the award of the SPD’s International Willy Brandt prize ‘For Special Political Courage’ in 2015.


  1. Based on the importance of Julian Assange’s contribution to journalism 

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have won numerous major journalism prizes, including Australia’s highest journalistic honour (equivalent to the Pulitzer), the Walkley prize for “The Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism”, The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (UK), the Index on Censorship and The Economist’s New Media Award, the Amnesty International New Media Award, and has been nominated for the UN Mandela Prize (2015) and the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize (nominated by Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire). Wikileaks journalists, including Julian Assange, are long standing members of their respective national journalist unions and WikiLeaks has been repeatedly found by courts to be a media organization.

The WikiLeaks model, which preserves the integrity of the original archive, has ushered in a golden era of in-depth journalistic investigations. WikiLeaks receives censored and restricted documents anonymously after Julian Assange invented the first anonymous secure online submission system for documents from journalistic sources. For years it was the only such system of its kind, but secure anonymous dropboxes are now seen as essential for many major news and human rights organisations.

WikiLeaks publications have been cited in tens of thousands of articles and academic papers and have been used in numerous court cases promoting human rights and human rights defenders. For example, documents published by WikiLeaks were successfully used this month in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the UK’s illegal depopulation of the Chagos Islands, which where cleared to make way for a giant US military base at the largest Island, Diego Garcia. The Islanders have been fighting for decades for recognition.

Julian Assange pioneered large international collaborations to secure maximum spread and contextual analysis of large whistleblower leaks. For “Cablegate”, WikiLeaks entered into partnerships with 110 different media organisations and continues to establish partnerships in its publications. This model has since been replicated in other international media collaborations with significant successes, such as the Panama Papers.


  1. Based on the importance of Julian Assange’s contribution to access to information

The WikiLeaks model, which preserves the integrity of the original archive, has also broken new ground the preservation of subjugated history. For example, documents published by Julian Assange have been used by petitioners to prove that they were subjected to extraordinary rendition by the CIA from Macedonia before the European Court of Human Rights (German citizen El-Masri v Macedonia; Assange’s publications were cited six times in the successful judgement), to free persons falsely accused of terrorism in Pakistan, as well as before the International Court of Justice in the recent Advisory Opinion in relation to the Chagos Islands case. The UK Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Assange’s publications of US diplomatic cables are admissable as evidence in UK courts.

His contribution to bringing serious wrongdoing to light and empowering human rights victims has led to Julian Assange being recognised as a Human Rights Defender. On 21 December 2018, UN Special Rapporter for the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, called for his immediate release: It is time that Mr. Assange, who has already paid a high price for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information, and to promote the right to truth in the public interest, recovers his freedom.

Julian Assange’s work in exposing war crimes and the cost of war has earned his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in consecutive years. In February 2019, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire announced that she had nominated him for this year’s Peace Prize.


  1. Examples of Julian Assange’s work

Julian Assange has published over 10 million documents with a perfect verification record. One of his first major releases was the a copy of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp’s 2003 Standard Operating Procedures for the US Army. WikiLeaks soon released allegations of illegality by the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, Sarah Palin’s Yahoo emails, the secret bibles of Scientology and the membership list of the far-right British National Party. In 2010, WikiLeaks came to global attention by publishing tens of thousands of classified documents from the United States, from the US Army’s suppressed video evidence of helicopter gunners in ‘Collateral Murder’ who killed a Reuters photojournalist and his driver, to the Afghan War Diaries and the Iraq War Logs, which documented more than 100,000 occupation related civilian killings, to “Cablegate”, the State Department diplomatic cables. This was followed in 2011 by the “Gitmo Files” – documents on 767 of the 779 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

WikiLeaks has published the “Global Intelligence Files” (5 million emails from intelligence contractor Stratfor), “Spy Files: Russia”, two million files from Syrian political elites, the “Saudi Cables” (hundreds of thousands of files from the Saudi Foreign Ministry) as well the key draft leaks and analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade (TPP) and the Trade in Service Agreement (TISA). In 2016, WikiLeaks published over 57,000 documents from Turkey’s Minister of Energy, who is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, revealing extensive corruption and leading to WikiLeaks being officially banned in Turkey. WikiLeaks publications have revealed extensive information on the the disasterous war on Libya and proof of US knowledge of Saudi and Quatari govenrment backing of ISIS and Al Nusra in Syria. One of WikiLeaks most recent investigations, in collaboration with major European media, revealed a corrupt arms deal between French state-owned company and the United Arab Emirates.

In the European context, Julian Assange notably revealed that the US’s National Security Agency and the CIA targeted:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • French Presidents Hollande, Sarkozy, and Chirac, as well as French cabinet ministers and the French Ambassador to the United States.
  • the French Finance Minister and US orders of the interception of every French company contract or negotiation valued at more than $200 million
  • communications of Foreign Minister Steinmeier, in the context of moves to end extraordinary rendition flights through Germany
  • the phones of EU trade officials and economists in Brussels
  • a private climate change strategy meeting between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin
  • the Swiss phone of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Chief of Staff for long term interception
  • the Director of the Rules Division of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
  • the long-term interception of top French, Belgian and Austrian EU economic officials
  • a meeting between then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel and Berlusconi

He also published original US intercepts from French senior officials concerning:

  • the global financial crisis
  • the Greek debt crisis
  • the leadership and future of the European Union
  • the relationship between the Hollande administration and the German government of Angela Merkel
  • French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations
  • French involvement in the conflict in Palestine
  • French officials’ communications concerning US spying on France.


Selected Books and Articles by Julian Assange

Washington Post, ‘WikiLeaks has the same mission as The Post and the Times‘  by Julian Assange, 11 April 2017

WikiLeaks, ‘Assange Statement on the Eve of the US Election8 October 2016

The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to the US Empire‘, Verso, 2016

Introduction –  The Wikileaks Files: The World According to the US Empire‘ by Julian Assange’, Verso, 26 August 2015

Libération, ‘WikiLeaks: les toits des ambassades américaines ont des oreilles, la preuve‘ Par Pierre Alonso, Jean-Marc Manach et Julian Assange, 3 Juillet 2015

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Exopression’s study on the protection of sources and whistleblowers’,  by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, 22 June 2015

‘When Google Met WikiLeaks’, OR Books, 2014

Newsweek, ‘Google is not what it seems‘, by Julian Assange, 23 October 2014

New York Times, ‘The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ by Julian Assange, 1 June 2013

Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet‘, OR Books, 2012

WikiLeaks, ‘Assange Statement on the First Day of Manning Trial‘, 3 June 2013


  1. Conclusion

Edward Snowden stated on WikiLeaks’ contribution to journalism:

“Their mere existence has stiffened the spines of institutions in many countries, because editors know if they shy away from an important but controversial story, they could be scooped by the global alternative to the national press.”

Julian Assange’s undisputed role in transforming the informational space  over the past ten years has made him a primary target of information warfare, intelligence actions and US prosecution.

The United Nations stated in December:

“It is time that Mr. Assange, who has already paid a high price for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information, and to promote the right to truth in the public interest, recovers his freedom”

Julian Assange has already paid too high price for his work. Without substantial European institutional recognition of the severity of his persecution he is highly likely to be extradited to the United States given the increasingly close nature of the US-UK relationship and the accelerating diminution of respect for legal rights and due process in both of these two states.

This is the last year that Julian Assange is eligible for the award, given the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union, which exposes him to additional uncertainty and jeopardy.  The Courage Foundation urges the jury to give this year’s award to Julian Assange, which will armour him against a difficult battle ahead against the forces that seek to silence him, and with him, all that this award stands for.

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