VIDEO: Julian Assange “In Conversation”

By Heather Finnamore @heather_lucy

Julian Assange is to appear over video link from the Ecuadorian embassy tonight at The Foundry, Sheffield, as part of The Festival of Debate’s “In conversation” event.

The Festival of Debate is a project by Opus Independents it aims to increase public engagement with politics and encourage active citizenship.

Their guest speaker Assange is a journalist and internet activist; and also the editor in chief and founder of WikiLeaks.

The Australian born Assange has worked to support whistle-blowers since 2006, promoting the transparency of governments, attempting to hold those with power to account across the globe, he is most notable for the leaks initiated by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

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Assange sparks controversy on social media

Assange is a member of society who is a target of debates himself; from extreme hate to calling him a hero, many take to twitter to show their views.

Many have chosen to vilify him- particularly with biopic films, like the “Fifth estate” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Assange came under scrutiny after Sweden warranted his arrest when he allegedly raped two women.

He met one of the woman at the Social Democrats’ Brotherhood Movement event on the “War and the role of media”, The WikiLeaks founder was the key speaker at this event.

Assange denies the charges being quoted on WikiLeaks, saying that the allegations are “without basis”.

Not long before this allegation Assange had filed for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden, with the plan of basing the WikiLeaks headquarters in the country.

Although the case was dismissed once, it arose again and in 2010 Sweden issued an international arrest warrant by Interpol.

The UK have said they will not grant “safe passage” for Assange, forcing him to seek political asylum. The Ecuador’s foreign minister agreed to his asylum due to the fear his human rights might be violated if he is extradited.

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Julian Assange and ‘Embassy Cat’

For three years he has been held up in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and until recently was alone until the addition of a new friend, and kitten ( @Embassycat ) which is yet to be named.

Swedish prosecutors have now dropped their investigation into one accusation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion. This is due to running out of time to question him over the issue, although, the allegation of rape will not be dropped until 2020.

Doctor Scott Eldridge, Journalism lecturer from the University of Sheffield said: “You can be cynical in any direction, the direction of Assange, or of the Swedish Government for not getting around to questioning him sooner, because now some have passed the statute of limitations”

A spokesman for The Festival of Debate, noted: “we are aware that not everyone agrees with the decision to include him in the festival”

“We are aware of strong feelings, given the allegations about rape”

Some have argued he should not appear as part of The Festival of Debate, Doctor Eldrige noted: “for one, the worst thing you can do for anything debate orientated is just to shut something problematic out”.

Doctor Eldrige talks more to ShefNews below.

Despite controversy, the Festival of Debate are upholding freedom of information, allowing Assange to talk about his work with WikiLeaks and talk to the audience at the end of the show, and inviting questions on all topics.

Assange will talk to The Foundry, Sheffield, from 6.30pm, tickets cost £10, to attend buy online at http://tickets.sheffieldstudentsunion.com/ents/event/9317/

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