Julian Assange an Icon of Freedom of Expression

On Sunday WikiLeaks fame Mr. Julian Assange issued an inspiring statement from the balcony of Ecuadorian Embassy at London where he was granted asylum. The British police were waiting outside the Embassy to arrest him if he stepped out  of the building.

The 41 year old Australian is the Editor in Chief of WikiLeaks a net media advocating universal open Governance by publishing hidden information from whistle blowers all over the world. He is wanted by USA Justice Department for his role in the exposure of American secret cables and is also under Swedish  arrest warrant  in a sexual assault case. But the admirers of Julian Assange believe that he has committed no crime.

Mr. Assange was very confident that he could not be victimized due to the provisions of Vienna conventions since the people gathered at the embassy were to be considered as the witnesses of the occasion. He referred the democratic basic principles on which America was built.  He had meticulously planned his appearance with a well prepared speech.

He addressed the gathering directly

“If the UK did not throw away the Vienna conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching.”

He might be referring the following Article 22 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter
them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises
of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the
mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

It should be noted that in 1956 , after an unsuccessful uprising against the communist government of Hungary the United States granted diplomatic asylum to dissident Hungarian Roman Catholic József Cardinal Mindszenty. He remained as a n refuge in the U.S. embassy and was there for 15 years.

Mr. Assange was requesting America to renounce witch hunt against WikiLeaks.He made an appeal to American President Barack Obama.

As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.

Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?

I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch-hunts against Wikileaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation.

The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.

There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organisation; be it Wikileaks, or be it the New York Times.

Mr. Assange’s reference to the values of the foundation of America is well known in the history. George Washington one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and the new republic’s first President who presided over the convention that drafted the Constitution had a quote to cite on this occasion.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Further it can be recalled that the First Amendment of the US Constitution guaranties the following five freedoms
1. Freedom of Religion
2. Freedom of Speech
3. Freedom of the Press
4. Freedom of Assembly Peaceably
5. Freedom to Petition the Government for Grievances

Mr. Assange in his speech appreciated and thanked the Latin American countries.

“And so, I am grateful to those people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and to all other Latin American countries who have come out to defend the right to asylum.”

In a sentimental passionate appeal Mr. Assange reassured his family about his freedom to come.

“To my family and to my children who have been denied their father. Forgive me, we will be reunited soon.”

After the issue of the above statement by Assange, the diplomatic stand off between Britain and Ecuador over the issue of Assange is getting hot as the Ecuadorian  President Rafael Correa  has warned against the UK entering its London embassy to arrest Julian Assange.  He said

“I think it would be suicidal for the United Kingdom,”  “After that, the diplomatic premises of [the UK] in other territories could be violated all over the world….Such a move, would be “disastrous” for all countries, but especially for Britain”

” we’re hoping for clear and coherent backing because this violates all inter-American law, all international law, the Vienna convention and all diplomatic traditions of the last, at least, 300 years on a global scale.”

But Mr. Correa, a left-leaning economist is said to be  acting against the United States along with allies like  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolvia’s Evo Morales, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Earlier  he had also called for sanctions against Britain over the Falkland issue with Argentina.

Anyhow it is only good to have someone to save Assange. The world is watching the dramatic events to be unfolded in the following months on the asylum, extradition, prosecution involving Assange.

Assange is an individual who opened a new window to the world. Whether he stands in the balcony of an embassy or not he stands tall, taller than the countries which are hunting for him for revealing the truth.


The Government can safeguard its land only when it patiently hears
Those words which may not please its ears

Garbed as a holy man a spy should go everywhere
Withstanding all strain.

(From Thirukkural 389 & 586 , an ancient book of wisdom written by ThiruValluvar in Classical Tamil)


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