The evolving whistleblower debate

A UN panel has handed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a high-profile victory, stating that he should be allowed to walk free


A file photo of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Photo: AFP
A file photo of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Photo: AFP

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 when he sought political asylum. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has now handed him a high-profile victory, stating that he should be allowed to walk free.

Will that have any impact? Doubtful. The panel’s findings are not binding, and indications are that the UK will still aim to extradite Assange to Sweden to face a rape accusation—one he claims is false and intended to have him finally extradited to the US to answer for WikiLeaks’ release of classified information.

With other whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden similarly in the grip of state power or in hiding, the lasting effects of the spotlight they shone on the inner workings of states are debatable. As technology continues to evolve—to the benefit of both the state and the whistle-blowers—so will this debate.