Days after WikiLeaks' and its founder Julian Assange's names emerged in connection with the Nobel Prize, the Australian appeared in a London courtroom on Tuesday in connection with sexual assault charges slapped against him. Accused of some of the highly stigmatized felonies, will Assange or WikiLeaks still be considered for the prestigious award?
A day ahead of the closure of nominations on Feb. 1, observers of the Nobel Prize predicted that Assange may be one among the nominated personalities this year. Based on the logic that news events often influence the nominations, the observers speculated that the 2011 candidates for the prestigious prize could be the Arab protestors, Russian Human Rights activists and the whistleblower Assange.
A few days later, a member of the Parliament of Norway revealed that he has nominated the the whistleblower website WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
It is always easier to support freedom of speech when the one who speaks agree with you politically. This is one of the tests on liberal and democratic values that governments tend to fail. For instance, western governments have a long history on tolerating oppressive regimes that are friendly-minded. Internet companies assist China in censoring search engines. And many countries respond to Wikileaks' obvious right to publish material that is of public interest, by seeking to shoot the messenger, Snorre Valen, a member of the Socialist Left party, wrote in his blog post, titled 'Why I nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize'.
Although the trail is still underway, the nature of the charges slapped against Assange is likely to cloud any chance of him or his website being considered for the Nobel Prize. The sexual misconduct, sexual molestation and rape accusations may also negate the WikiLeaks supporters' arguments that Assange deserves the prize more than some of the controversial winners in the past, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
However, Assange does not stand alone here. Al Gore, who won the Nobel Prize in 2007, had a similar taint scarring his reputation. A 54-year-old massage therapist had accused the former US vice president of groping and kissing her in a luxury hotel suite in October 2006. Despite these charges, Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change went on to win the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore was only cleared of the charges in 2010.