Julian Assange: A Friend or a Foe

The images of the so-called, “Robin Hood of the digital age” stormed the internet when he was being horizontally put in a vehicle by a bunch of security officials. In a much visible beard, he was recorded saying “We must resist”, fitting perfectly with the glorified image of Julian Assange, known to the world. He was arrested from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, marking a tragic end in the relationship with the place, which has been home for him and his famous cat for the past seven years.

With his arrest and charges in three different countries (the USA, the UK, and Sweden), the credibility and relevance of the 47-year-old have become a matter of debate in the publications all around the globe. Having a celebrity status as the Digital Anarchist and savior of Free Press, the co-founder of Wikileaks, has been highly criticized for his intentions, actions, and judgments in his career.  It is not just the leaks and his narcissism that people find problematic. His personal actions are also questionable with alleged cases of rape and sexual harassment. 

FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen in a police van after was arrested by British police outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London Source: Reuters

Being a stateless figure for a very long time, he has shown the influence that the internet is capable of empowering ordinary citizens with information and transparency. His actions, however, are not appreciated very well by Governments all around the globe. Julian Assange has often capped himself as a journalist, but much of what he does could be called Cyber Activism. Let me remind you that he has pending criminal cases in three nations. So, who really is Julian Assange and how relevant or irrelevant is his presence in the service of Public information?

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador Source: Getty Images

It cannot be denied that he has brought a revolution in public information in the age of the internet. As a column in The New York Times describes, “His creation of WikiLeaks helped empower a generation of whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders who could operate on an industrial scale, providing disclosures by the terabyte and enraging the powerful in many countries.” As far as the question of his credibility goes, some of the most trusted news organizations with the likes of The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and TheNew York Times  have worked in collaboration with data provided by Wikileaks that has unveiled some of the scariest and important facts about our Corrupt Democracies.

Appreciation

Assange co-founded Wikileaks in 2006, where he adopted a somewhat Nomadic lifestyle, where he was roaming all around the world to form a collaboration of people who believed in making some of the important government files present in public domain. In 2008, while he was residing in Africa, he exposed corruption in Kenya. He then exposed some important documents on Guantanamo prison and Iraq wars.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Then Chelsea Manning, a defense intelligence analyst, who was stationed at a base in Iraq collaborated with Assange. She was copying thousands of documents from a classified network onto CDs that she marked as Lady Gaga songs to avoid detection.

On April 2010, titled as Collateral Murder, a video was released in the Wikileaks website that shook the American Military and Politics and hence caught Global undeniable attention. The video was classified file of the US military showed the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. Reuters had been trying to obtain the video in the past.  The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

The military in the USA denounced it and then Chelsea Manning was arrested and is still facing custody. Many people have defended her act of unveiling files as an important public service. Another series of files were released by various news organizations in collaboration with Wikileaks. Titled as The War Logs it showed nearly 77,000 military documents from the war in Afghanistan and then 392,000 from the war in Iraq.

Hillary Clinton, source:  Getty Images

In 2016, WikiLeaks released then US President-hopeful Hillary Clinton’s private emails which made a lot of his previous admirers in the politics of United States and has been accused by the Democrats, including Clinton, of acting for Donald Trump with the aid of Russian interests. In its brutal attack, the United State is demanding the extradition of Assange to the U.S.A to face a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

It cannot be denied that Assange has been a pivotal instrument in exposing corruptions and scandals worldwide. It has with the power of a Global Network emerged as a potential threat to many of the corrupt facilities all around the globe. But his actions and pursuit along with his behavior have always put him in question.

Criticism

At the age of 20, in 1991,  Assange was charged with a long list of hacking offenses, to which he pleaded guilty and later released with a fine and a warning. His behavior and ethics have always been criticized in the public. Many called him a mere cyberpunk and Criminal who should be put behind the bars.

Wikileaks has also been accused of publishing unredacted documents that might put in danger Afghans who were named as working with the United States military, and the Iraq documents were stripped of names. Several news organizations including The Times consulted Wikileaks, with which it was collaborating to redact names and to protect vulnerable people but in dispute with the organizations, Assange decided simply to publish the massive cable collection without any edits. This makes everyone question his claim to be a journalist.

Rape and Sexual Molestation case in Sweden

Back in 2010, the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange after two women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. The women, who knew each other and Assange, had similar stories of encounters that began consensually but allegedly devolved into coercive and even violent experiences.

source: Satish Acharya

Swedish police wanted to question the WikiLeaks founder on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion stemming from the incidents with the women, who were referred to by the initials AA and SW. Assange has denied any criminal wrongdoing, but he admitted to having sex with one of the women. If he is innocent then is constant refusal is questionable.


In September 2010, after Assange was questioned by police and while the investigation was still underway, he left Sweden for the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, he was given asylum in Ecuador’s Embassy but later the relationship turned sour as several habitual issues of Assange became a reason for the dispute. In fact, it was because of the reason that he got arrested as Ecuador pulled his support from him. He even refused to clean up after his cat, the officials at the Embassy allege Assange.

Julian Assange’s cat at the Embassy. Source: Reuters

Other problematic habits were riding a skateboard and playing football inside the small embassy building to mistreating and threatening embassy staff and even coming to blows with security workers. He is also accused of insulting “threats”, to the officials in the Embassy.

Assange is most likely to face extradition but his case is pivotal and should be observed by everyone as the War-on-Information could be at stake globally. Proceedings to justice should be unbiased and fair.

 

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