Whistle-blower website WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange "do not deserve to be treated like common criminals" for upholding "such precious freedom" that does not exist in many countries, a leading Indian journalist said.
The US athorities want to charge Assange for revealing state secrets after his website published thousands of documents, including files related to US-led war in Afghanistan and Iraq war and diplomatic cables sent to and from American embassies across glob.
"I daresay, to compromise on the right to expression and freedom is a slippery slope. We need to beware. Ladies and gentleman, I submit that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange do not deserve to be treated like common criminals for upholding such precious freedom," said Ashis Ray, president of the Indian Journalists' Association (Europe).
At an event organised by the Commonwealth Journalists' Association at the Houses of Parliament Friday evening, Ray said the website has the "right to stretch the boundaries of freedom in the revolutionary era of internet technology and new media".
"To me, three things are sacrosanct - my reader, my listener and my viewer. It's their interests that guide my principles. My duty is to inform and entertain; as I believe should be the job of all journalists. Never to suppress, unless I am sworn not to disclose," he said.
"It matters little to me whether my exposes embarrass Washington, London or New Delhi, as long as I am dealing with the truth."
Endorsing Washington's right to prevent WikiLeaks from dabbling in disclosures through lawful, legitimate means, Ray, however, said he "would be concerned if it resorted to dirty tricks to do so, to the extent of endangering Assange's life".
He said: "The fundamental questions that need to be answered are: Were the cables and logs that have been brought to the general public’s notice secure? Were these not virtually in the public domain by the fact of their rather wide distribution? Messages that are confidential, classified or top secret are generally not shared beyond a very close circle. The US administration is, therefore, paying the penalty of having a rather loose system. And so, it's ludicrous for it to blame Assange for its troubles."
He ruled out that the that the leaked cables and logs have affected the US security and said that the documents have only revealed red faces in Washington, in US diplomatic and military circles and in some other governments.
"Has WikiLeaks endangered lives by publicising a series of sensitive matters? There is as yet no incontrovertible evidence to establish this," he added. He said Assange was certainly not the kind of man who should be "hounded by the free world" and wondered if he had anything so wrong "for the United States administration to contemplate draconian measures to rein him in."