Assange peace prize masks WikiLeaks' dirty secret

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, has been awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal for his "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights" while other reports suggest the organisation is indulging in a spot of censorship itself.

The Australian received his gong on 10th May in a low-key ceremony at London's Frontline Club. Travel restrictions currently prevent the whistleblower-in-chief from leaving the UK while he contests an extradition request from Sweden, where he is accused of sexual offences.

Bagging the award puts Assange in some pretty illustrious company. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.

"For 14 years we've awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, but only on three occasions in 14 years have we made an exception to the rule and awarded a gold medal for 'exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights,'" said Stuart Rees, director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, according to a report on the invite-only bash from the Frontline Club's website.

"By challenging centuries-old practices of government secrecy and by championing people's right to know, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have created the potential for a new order in journalism and in the free flow of information," Rees said in a statement.

But according to another report emerging this week, that "free flow of information" appears distinctly one-sided. On the New Statesman's website, renowned legal blogger David Allen Green - known to many as 'Jack of Kent' - revealed details of the draconian contract Assange's organisation imposes on its own staff.

Clause 5 of the Confidentiality Agreement (PDF) imposes a legal gag that prevents staff members from leaking "all newsworthy information relating to the workings of WikiLeaks" to other outlets - on pain of a £12,000,000 penalty. In effect, it makes the leaked information that Assange claims to be ushering into the public domain the exclusive commercial property of WikiLeaks.

Green calls the measure "ludicrous - and undoubtedly unenforceable". But here's the best bit: "like a superinjunction - the fact of the legal gag itself is subject to the gag".

"At the forefront of anti-censorship", says WikiLeaks' website. These days, we're not so sure.