Holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over a year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on Thursday defended the leaking of classified cables on his website during BBC’s flagship Radio 4 programme, Today, which came under fire for its unusual broadcast.
Assange was invited to the popular morning programme by its guest editor, musician PJ Harvey, and made his comments in a special Thought for the Day segment. The programme drew much criticism for the opinions allowed be expressed by Assange and other guests.
Critics called the programme 'the worst-ever' and ‘Left-wing tosh’, and alleged that the BBC was 'misguided' to allow Assange to speak to the nation, and questioned the format in which he was not interviewed or challenged by its presenters.
Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden over sex assault allegations and was granted asylum by Ecuador in June 2012, praised NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for "attempting to 'show governments aspire, through their intelligence agencies, to a god-like knowledge of each and every one of us."
Assange said: "Knowledge is power. To keep a person ignorant is to place them in a cage. So it follows that the powerful, if they want to keep their power, will try to know as much about us as they can, and they will try to make sure that we know as little about them as is possible".
He added: "You see this insight everywhere, both in religious writings which promised emancipation from political oppression and in revolutionary works promising liberation from the repressive dogmas of the church and the state."
"To be alive to a human being is to know in the same way that it is to have a heart that beats. Documents disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that governments dare to aspire, through their intelligence agencies, to a god-like knowledge about each and every one of us.
"But at the same time they hide their actions behind official secrecy. As our governments and corporations know more and more about us, we know less and less about them…Today remember that it is good to seek to empower the powerless through knowledge, and to drag the machinations of the powerful into the daylight. We must be unapologetic about that most basic of humanities, the desire to know."
Assange faces arrest if he steps out of the Ecuadorian Embassy.