Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Assange Awarded Sydney Peace Medal : WikiLeaks Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

By Jerry Smith Feb 2 2011

Julian Assange has been chosen by the Sydney Peace Foundation to receive a rare gold metal for peace with justice award, and Norwegian politician Snorre Valen has nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the Sydney Peace Foundation's 14-year history, the honour has previously only been given to the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda. Assange has been given this honor for his "exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights".

Foundation director Professor Stuart Rees told AAP on Wednesday that Assange's work was "challenging the old order of power in politics and in journalism", and was like Tom Paine's Rights of Man and Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers. "In the Paine, Ellsberg and Assange cases, those in power moved quickly to silence their critics even by perverting the course of justice," Rees said.

Prof Rees also said "Peace from our point of view is really about justice, fairness and the attainment of human rights. Assange has championed people's right to know and has challenged the centuries-old tradition that governments are entitled to keep the public in a state of ignorance."

Assange was told he had received the award, which is different from the annual Sydney Peace Prize the foundation also gives out, last month and said it would be an "enormous pleasure and honour" to receive it, Rees said.

Depending on where Assange is residing, he faces an extradition to Sweden hearing Monday in London but wishes to return home to Australia, the foundation said they would present the award to him in Sydney in mid-May or at a ceremony in London later in the year.

Prof Rees said "Even if we have to travel secretly and announce the award later, we will do that," we will do what is necessary to ensure the award is given to Mr Assange in person.

The Sydney Peace Foundation's executives decided that by leaking diplomatic cables Assange had made an important contribution to the operation of democracy. "Wikileaks has exposed the extent to which governments, the military and business all over the world have used secrecy to cloak their real intentions and activities," they said.

The Sydney Peace Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1998 within the University of Sydney and aims to promote peace and justice in Australia.

WikiLeaks has been nominated by Norwegian politician Snorre Valen, a member of the Socialist Left Party that is part of the ruling coalition, for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Valen said WikiLeaks was "one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency" in the 21st century, and "by disclosing information about corruption, human rights abuses and war crimes, WikiLeaks is a natural contender for the Nobel Peace Prize".

Valen said yesterday that one of the many accomplishments WikiLeaks has made is the role it played in the recent Tunisian Jasmine Revolution. “By disclosing the economic arrangements by the presidential family in Tunisia, Wikileaks have made a small contribution to bringing down a 24-year-lasting dictatorship,” Valen wrote.

"Wikileaks have contributed to the struggle for those very values globally, by exposing (among many other things) corruption, war crimes and torture, sometimes even conducted by allies of Norway," Valen wrote, referring to the United States.

Awarding WikiLeaks the prize might provoke criticism of the Nobel Committee which has had controversy with its two previous choices, jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo and President Barack Obama only a few months after his election.

The head of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Kristian Berg Harpviken, and several Nobel experts expected WikiLeaks and Mr Assange to be on the list of candidates, but do not expect either to win the honor.

“The reason for that is that they are the targets of harsh and legitimate criticism for having released a lot of information that could be detrimental to some individuals and for diplomacy. I think there are other candidates with much more promising prospects in 2011, but I am sure that the nomination of WikiLeaks will generate quite a lot of debate,” Harpviken said.

On the PRIO website, Harpviken wrote he thought the Nobel Peace Prize will go to “a female leader or activist who has been an innovator of new tools for bringing about peace." He said "It is important to award the initiative of people who do not hold positions of power, but who nonetheless find ways of affecting history in definitive ways”, adding that Liberian social worker and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, Russian NGO Memorial and its founder Svetlana Gannushkina, and Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh were among his favourites this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment