Julian Assange Says WikiLeaks Is More Accountable Than Most Governments, Gets a Little Sassy About It
That was essentially the message that Assange conveyed over the weekend, during his first public appearance since being arrested in December, amid accusations of rape and sexual assault. Speaking to an audience at a public debate in London, Assange claimed that his whistleblowing organization is more accountable than most democratically elected governments -- simply because WikiLeaks relies upon personal donations, rather than corporate money.
"We are directly supported on a week-to-week basis by you. You vote with your wallets every week if you believe that our work is worthwhile or not," Assange explained. "If you believe we have erred, you do not support us. If you believe we need to be protected in our work, you keep us strong. That dynamic feedback, I say, is more responsive than a government that is elected after sourcing money from big business every four years."
Things got a little testy, though, when political commentator Douglas Murray took the floor. Murray wasted no time in challenging Assange on the sources of WikiLeaks' donations, as well as its connections to Israel Shamir -- a Holocaust denier who has worked with the organization. Murray also brought up a book authored by Guardian writers David Leigh and Luke Harding. According to the authors, Assange once said that any informant who dies because of WikiLeaks' published documents "had it coming to them."
Assange replied to Murray by reminding him that he "is in the process of suing the Guardian" over the book, and asked Murray if he'd like to "join the queue" of people he's suing. That prompted debate chair Jason Cowley to interject and ask, "How can the great champion of open society be using our libel laws to challenge the press?" Assange, however, was forced to cut the Q&A short, in order to make curfew, as required by his bail.