Yoko Ono Lennon bestowed her annual Courage Award to Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange yesterday evening (February 3) in New York City.
"Our public officials have forgotten that they are ultimately accountable to the people who put them in office; that the information they keep in secrecy belongs to all of us," she said at the ceremony.
"Julian Assange took a courageous step by rightfully returning what belongs to the public domain. For that reason, I believe we need to stand behind him."
The prize, instituted in 2009, was received in absentia by associates of Assange, who read a statement by Assange that praised the people who work for Wikileaks:
"Through their courage and wit, they are revealing the true nature of our global human civilization," the statement read. "This is how we may reform it. Elevate it—and make it just, beyond its humble origins. Their courage in documenting war crimes, gross human-rights violations, and the corruption of our societies is unequalled."
Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London while he fights an attempt by Sweden to extradite him on charges of sexual assault.
During a recent videoconference meeting with students at Oxford University, Assange slammed the script for the upcoming Hollywood film on the early days of Wikileaks, The Fifth Estate, as "a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff".