Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Julian Assange is first and foremost a symbol: the symbol of citizens’ right to know the truth. That is why I am very pleased to have managed to collect the necessary signatures, to nominate Julian Assange for the Sakharov Prize 2022 for Freedom of Thought. The Sakharov Prize, awarded annually by the European Parliament, is the European Union’s highest award in the field of human rights.
This nomination arise from the realization that his case and his detention are a representation of how power seeks to ‘punish’ those who do not conform to pre-packaged truths. With documents, films and concrete evidence, Assange, with his association WikiLeaks and in collaboration with the world’s leading newspapers, has allowed citizens to learn about horrific war crimes, arbitrary detentions, human rights violations and cases of torture unworthy of states that call themselves democratic. This journalistic work was carried out by obscuring sensitive sources and data, to avoid endangering those working in the field.
Assange could have sold the secrets he came into possession of, but he did not do so in the name of freedom of the press. This is why he is a defender of freedom of expression and protection of human rights. It was precisely to promote and preserve these values that the prestigious Sakharov Prize was established for.
“The judicial treatment reserved to him embodies an attack on these fundamental freedoms, of which the European Parliament, above all, is proud to be a constant defender. Regarding the case of Mr Assange, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also recently intervened, denouncing how Mr. Assange’s possible extradition and prosecution raises concerns about press freedom and the possible chilling effects on investigative journalism and whistleblowing activities.
Assange’s case puts at the center of the political debate the issue of freedom of expression and the role of journalism in protecting citizens’ right to know the truth. If his case is not supported, the message to journalists, activists and citizens is extremely serious: that power can silence freedom of expression, the right to inform and to be informed. Assange’s nomination is meant to be a message in the opposite direction: democracy is not afraid of the truth.