From Consortium News
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been awarded a major prize, despite being behind bars in London's Belmarsh prison.
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Julian Assange, the imprisoned and maligned publisher of WikiLeaks, has been awarded the 2020 Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award by the board of the Consortium for Independent Journalism, publishers of Consortium News.
Assange is incarcerated in a maximum security prison in London awaiting a hearing later this month on an extradition request by the United States. He has been charged 0n 17 counts under the U.S. Espionage Act of possessing and publishing classified material that revealed prima facie evidence of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For practicing the highest order of journalism -- revealing crimes of the state -- Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. prison -- a life sentence for the 48-year old Australian.
Assange, whose life has been endangered in harsh prison conditions, has become an international symbol of the threat to press freedom. He is the first journalist to be charged under the Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of state secrets.
Robert Parry, the late founder and editor of Consortium News, was a staunch defender of Assange's rights. In 2010, he wrote: "Though American journalists may understandably want to find some protective cover by pretending that Julian Assange is not like us, the reality is whether we like it or not we are all Julian Assange."
The award is named after journalist Gary Webb whose life was cut short after the mainstream press vilified him for accurate reports about a CIA operation that flooded urban areas of the U.S. with cocaine from Nicaragua.
Journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, a member of the Consortium News board, said: "Having been close to Julian Assange through much of his struggle against corrupt power, I had no hesitation in voting for him for the Gary Webb prize. While Gary was a tragedy at the end, Julian must be a triumph."
A History of Scoops
Assange launched WikiLeaks in Dec. 2006. Among its first revelations were files alleging corruption by former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi; the U.S. Army manual for soldiers at Guantanamo Bay and registers of U.S. military equipment in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In January 2008, WikiLeaks released "United Nations Confidential Reports" that "expose matters from allegations of hundreds of European peace-keepers sexually abusing refugee girls to generals in Peru using Swiss bank accounts to engage in multi-million dollar frauds against the UN."
WikiLeaks' first major release came on April 5, 2010 with the publication of the Collateral Murder video, providing evidence of a U.S. war crime in Iraq. It was leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was arrested and charged on May 26, 2010 under the Espionage Act.
With Manning in jail, WikiLeaks published more of her leaked material. The Afghan War Diaries were released on July 25, 2010, which revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict. Assange partnered with The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian in publishing the Afghan leaks.