Some people claim he’s not strictly speaking a journalist and he certainly doesn’t operate from this country – but Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has picked up a Walkley award, one of Australia’s premier gongs for “outstanding journalism”.
But Wikileaks remains virtually off the air, and Assange yesterday delayed launch of a new online system claimed to allow whistleblowers to pass secrets safely to its Web site, according to a Financial Times report.
WikiLeaks’ electronic submission system has been offline for more than a year, impeding its mission to blow open government secrets, the FT said. Assange and his team have been working to “re-engineer from scratch” its submission system because existing security technology “could not be trusted”, he said last month.
Yesterday Assange announced – via a Twitter feed – that “due to the deteriorating state of Internet security”, Wikileaks had decided to postpone the launch.
Meanwhile the Walkley gong, judged by industry peers, was awarded to Wikileaks in “recognition of long-term commitment and achievement in the Australian media” at a ceremony in Brisbane.
Assange – natch – wasn’t there to receive his award. He’s still under what amounts to house arrest in the UK as he awaits a hearing of his appeal against a court ruling that he be extradited to Sweden to face sexual charges.
But he addressed the attendees in a brief recorded message in which he thanked the Australian people, Australian journalists and the Walkley Foundation for “standing by Wikileaks in our hour of need, not in five years time, but now when it counts.”
But there were no thanks or other nice words for PM Julia Gillard whom he branded “a cowardly Australian Prime Minister” for declining to offer him support. She should stop “sucking up” to the US, he suggested – and the same went for Attorney-General Robert McClelland.