Extradition hearing witness questions media portrayal of Julian Assange
Nicky Hager, a journalist, said the WikiLeaks founder was not the ‘difficult, awful person’ depicted in reports.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not the “difficult, awful person” portrayed in the media and “has devoted himself to trying to make the world a better place”, his extradition hearing has been told.
Investigative journalist Nicky Hager said logs from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, along with embassy cables, published by the organisation in 2010 and 2011 were “exactly the type” of leaked information needed by the public at the time.
Giving evidence at the Old Bailey by video-link on Friday, the New Zealander said he spent a lot of time working with Assange, 49, who is wanted in the US to face 18 charges alleging a plot to hack computers and conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.
Mr Hager said: “The person I got to know was completely different from the picture my friends and others were getting through the news media.
“I found him to be thoughtful, humorous and energetic.
“I saw nothing of the difficult, awful person he is often portrayed as through the media.
“As a New Zealander, I see him as an Aussie guy who is very principled and trying to find a way to make a difference in the world.
“He has devoted himself to trying to make the world a better place in an era when there is declining freedom of information in most of the world.”
US prosecutors claim Assange and WikiLeaks put the lives of informants around the world in danger by publishing unredacted documents online.
Mr Hager said it was his understanding that the organisation had made efforts to keep the names secret and only published the information in September 2011 once it had already been made public following the publication of a password in a Guardian book.
James Lewis QC, for the US government, suggested 154,000 diplomatic cables containing some names marked “simply protect” had already been published by WikiLeaks a week earlier.
Mr Hager said the evidence is disputed and argued the nine months between initial publication and the unredacted material being made public allowed the US authorities to act to protect sources.
“The precautions taken by Julian Assange at the beginning help to explain why there was not wholesale damage from those unredacted documents finding their way out,” he said.