By ALICE ZHAO
HONG KONG – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange blasted The New York Times and The Washington Post for their “closeness with government” and accused journalists of being corrupted by power when he spoke to journalists and media executives via Skype at the News World Summit held in Hong Kong Monday.
“Journalists enter journalism because they want to sit at the same table with politics,” said Assange. “Editors become corrupted and they do not hold those very people to account.” He added that there is a crisis of legitimacy within the mainstream press, accusing it of not being its own “gatekeeper”.
Sylvie Kauffman, Editorial Director of Le Monde took offense to the accusation and defended both newspapers, as well as newspapers editors, saying they worked neutrally and professionally with the material provided by WikiLeaks.
Assange is currently under house arrest inEngland. He had to end the 45-minute Skype call in order to meet the police, holding up a hand-written sign he said was written by staff that said “Stop”.
Thirty-five minutes after his first speech, Assange called back through Skype and said to Kaufmann, “Let us not pretend that some are innocent.”
It took four weeks for Le Monde to decide to publish the WikiLiks material, Kaufmann said. The newspaper published it without interference from others, she added.
Assange touched on a number of topics in his speech. He also accused credit card companies and banks of illegally cutting WikiLeaks off from funding under a secret deal with the White House.
He received the Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism at the Walkleys awards in his home country Australia on Sunday, where he slammed Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a pre-recorded speech.
“I am a goddamn journalist,” Assange said, in response to an audience question.
At the news summit in Hong Kong, which focuses on journalism in Asia, Assange said that censorship in mainland China could be perceived as positive as it is an indicator that words still have power in the mainland.
The author is a student reporter at the News World Summit.