"These bastards need to be bared"

BY NUPUR BASU| IN Media Practice | 28/07/2010
Leading an award winning investigative media website headquartered in Sweden with five full time journalists and 800 volunteers worldwide, Assange has been out for a kill.
NUPUR BASU describes her brief encounter with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

18th April, 2010 . The academic session of the spring semester at UC Berkeley is in full swing  and the Graduate School of Journalism is a hive of activity even on a warm Sunday afternoon . A three-day high profile seminar on media is in progress organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism. One of the star speakers is a journalist most have only heard of so far and never encountered " the celebrated whistleblower of the virtual media world " Julian Assange.


Spellbound we listened to the Australian who founded WikiLeaks  as he talked about the power of the media to take on the powerful. With looks that could pass off as a 60s hero of an European war film, the tall, blond  Julian Assange in his deep mellow voice let fly profanities as slings from an arrow to describe the corrupt regimes across the world . More importantly, he stressed the need for an international solidarity of journalists to blow the lid off corrupt politicians, officials and corporations. "These bastards need to be bared" he hissed.


In the segment when questions were invited from the floor I talked about sting operations in India on the internet and television and its positive and negative impact on the media and society in India.  Assange listened intently and responded. The panel done, I joined the queue of people waiting to talk one-to-one with him. When my turn came, I introduced myself as a journalist  from India presently on a teaching assignment at the Journalism School at Berkeley. Pat came the response from the Wiki Leaks founder: " I would love to start an operation from India as well !"


I made encouraging sounds saying corruption was going through the roof and we could certainly do with WikiLeaks  type of whistleblowing in India and also shared the plight of whistleblowers in our country . Athough tempted to carry on the interesting conversation with this pioneer, looking at the people still waiting to speak to him, I said good bye but only after he had scrawled his mail-id on a piece of paper. I didn’t know then that he compulsively changes mail ids and phone numbers!


Little did I realise that in the next two months he would be breaking new ground in web whistleblowing by publishing war logs of the US military that would rock the most powerful countries in the world. Leading an award winning investigative media website headquartered in Sweden with five full time journalists and 800 volunteers worldwide, Assange has been out for a kill. In July the interview with the US army chief in Afghanistan making fun of Obama and his team resulted in the General losing his job. This week, more revelations on the war in Afghanistan and how the Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI is still in bed with the enemy of the world- the Taliban- have proved an embarrassment for both Pakistan and the NATO. "WikiLeaks is the last thing that NATO needs" said BBC reacting to the latest revelations.


But whether NATO can savour it or not, for this new media warrior ,exposing the  "The Squalor of War" appears now to be a mission. And in a sense he does it with the same passionate intensity of the Beatles legend, John Lennon who sang the celebrated number : "Give Peace a Chance" .


After a brief hibernation in April when WikiLeaks closed for a couple of weeks to raise resources , Assange and his team have returned bigger and better. In July, had Federal US officials looking for him and he was ostensibly not to be found anywhere .Just as the world was wondering where he had disappeared, Assange who has been referred to in some media articles as ‘The International Man of Mystery" surfaced in Oxford at a TED talk.


Assange’s past is colourful. In 1991 when he was still a teenager, he was reportedly charged with 30 hacking offences, two dozen of which he is supposed to have pleaded guilty to. These included hacking the websites of the Australian Federal Police and university. But the big attack came in the form of WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers)  an attack launched from Australia on the NASA website. WANK was dubbed by analysts as "the first politically motivated digital crime".  Author of the book "Underground" Assange, whose website is committed to the ideology of anonymity as the basis of leaks, believes that victims will not reveal wrong doings openly. But put a mask on them and they will reveal all.


Call him an enigma, a man with a mission, a messiah of the wronged ? the list of descriptions are only going to swell for the founder of WikiLeaks , as it grows in influence and reveals dark secrets from the deepest and widest corridors of political and corporate power.







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