WikiLeaks 'fearlessly' publishing facts: Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is defending the whistleblowing website, saying his organization is "fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public."

Whistleblowing website publishes new set of cables after founder's arrest

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a press conference in London in October. ((Lennart Preiss/Associated Press) )

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is defending the whistleblowing website, saying his organization is "fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public."

Assange, who was arrested in Britain Tuesday in connection with sex crimes allegations in Sweden, defended the WikiLeaks decision to publish secret U.S. government documents in an editorial published Wednesday in The Australian.


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Assange, an Australian citizen, said democratic societies need a "strong media" and said WikiLeaks is part of that media, noting that the website has revealed "some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption."

Assange criticizes Australian government

The 39-year-old also blasted the Australian government, saying Prime Minister Julia Gillard's administration is "trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings."

He also criticized the government for failing to respond to several public threats of violence against him.

Gillard had previously condemned the website's decision to publish the U.S. documents, saying "it's a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do."

But Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd later said the U.S. government was to blame for the releases, not WikiLeaks.

In an interview with Reuters, Rudd said the leaks raised questions about the "adequacy" of U.S. security

"Mr. Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network," said Rudd, who was replaced as prime minister by Gillard.

"The Americans are responsible for that," he said.

Former Australian prime minister John Howard also said that Assange had not done anything wrong by releasing cables that contained "frank commentary," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

"Any journalist will publish confidential information if he or she gets hold of it, subject only to compelling national security interests," Howard said.

The WikiLeaks editor-in-chief argued that there was no evidence that the material published on the website had harmed a single person during its four-year history.

Assange also noted that WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, saying the organization is working with five major newspapers to release the redacted cables.

"Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the U.S. government and its acolytes," he said.

WikiLeaks publishes new set of cables

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks published a new set of cables and posed a defiant message saying the leaks would keep flowing despite the arrest of its founder.

The latest cables cover the details of British-Libyan relations in the run-up to the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi.

One cable describes the eccentricities of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. Another describes an underground Halloween party complete with moonshine, liquor and prostitutes thrown by a wealthy Saudi prince in the city of Jeddah. The royal's name has been redacted.

In a message published to Twitter on Wednesday, WikiLeaks spokeswoman Kristinn Hrafnsson shrugged off the pressure.

"The latest batch of cables were released, and our media partners released their next batch of stories," Hrafnsson said Tuesday evening. "We will not be gagged, either by judicial action or corporate censorship.... WikiLeaks is still online. The full site is duplicated in more than 500 locations. Every day, the cables are loaded more than 50 million times."

Assange was denied bail Tuesday and is in a London jail while he waits for an extradition hearing.

With files from The Associated Press