Two years to the day into his self-imposed confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Julian Assange fought to stay in the media limelight with an Ask Me Anything appearance on Reddit on Thursday afternoon.
The WikiLeaks founder sought political asylum from Ecuador amid rape allegations in Sweden, a country to which he could be extradited if British police follow through on their stated intention to arrest him upon leaving the building in London. Assange also faces potential prosecution in the United States for violation of the Espionage Act.
Assange’s profile in the media has fallen considerably after he became an international figure in 2010, when WikiLeaks released a trove of classified U.S. documents that detailed controversial military manuevers in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the Collateral Murder video depicting a U.S. Army helicopter firing on civilians.
The accusations of rape further dimmed his star, and he defended himself on Reddit by saying “the truth has a habit of reasserting itself,” but not going into any of the specifics in the case, despite commenters going back and forth on the issue.
The AMA session was part of a media campaign Assange has begun around the 2-year anniversary of his political asylum, but the Australian-born Assange revealed nothing unusual in the hour-long question-and-answer session. In fact, his answers were mostly straight out of a Digital Activism 101 textbook.
“Secrecy is, yes, sometimes necessary, but healthy democracies understand that secrecy is the exception, not the rule,” he said. Other insights were just as flat. Assange said the recent Indian election, which put back in power the nationalist BJP party, were a “very interesting development.” He called Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing “an intelligent and heroic act.” And said he does not regret any of the WikiLeaks activities, because “we make a promise to our sources.” Hardly the stuff of headlines.
Assange has made himself available to the public quite a bit lately: via Skype at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, last March via Skype; at a technology conference in South Africa via WeChat livestream last month; and just yesterday hosted a phone interview with reporters about the future of WikiLeaks.
Assange’s recent flurry of media appearances is in fact “another attempt to secure his freedom,” a reminder to the world that he is still alive, according to CNET.
For now, the 42-year old Assange remains, as he said on Reddit, the “center of a pitched, prolonged diplomatic standoff, along with a police encirclement of the building I am in and the attendant surveillance and government investigations against myself.” And at the end of one hour online, there did not seem to be any sense that the situation would soon change soon.