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Sarah Harrison's Willy Brandt Award Speech

'Let's dare more democracy.'


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Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a honour to be here today to accept the Willy Brant Award for Political Courage for my work with WikiLeaks, in getting Edward Snowden asylum, and for my political statements - many of which have called for Germany's protection of Edward Snowden and my Editor Julian Assange.

I do not do this work alone however - there are of course others that I work with behind the scenes - our researchers, art and design team, journalist and legal teams, and our dedicated technical team. The successes you honour me with today would not be possible alone and I share this award with them.

I apologise that I am speaking to you in English today. After the welcome and protection I have received here in Berlin, it is embarrassing that my German is still too wildly poor to give this speech in your great language. But I thank this city, and particularly the many individuals who have personally assisted me in settling here, for your kindness and support. As I do my parents, who join me here today. Without the unwavering support of my family I wouldn't have been able to build the strength needed to do this work.

Like me, Willy Brandt worked as a journalist, unable to go home for a number of years. Escaping the Nazis, Brandt worked as a journalist in exile before finally returning to Germany and entering politics here. Whilst I have no plans to enter politics, I am a journalist at WikiLeaks who, due to legal advice regarding the UK's misuse of the terrorism act, has been advised not to go home.

My country, the UK, like others around the world at the moment, are using the term 'national security' incorrectly as fearmongering in an attempt to justify their stripping us of our rights. Despite the proof that it does nothing to the real, or the more prevalent imagined, threat of terrorism, the UK and other states around the world are spying on their own citizens, violating numerous human rights.

  • It's under the guise of national security that the UK started a terrorism investigation in the wake of the Snowden revelations that puts into question my legal safety and protections as a journalist.
  • It's under the guise of national security that the UK stopped David Miranda as he undertook journalistic work via the UK, denying him his right to silence and journalistic freedoms and protections.
  • It's under the guise of national security that the UK introduced law that has permitted them to detain Julian Assange for over five years without charge.
  • It's under the guise of national security the UK government bullied the Guardian newspaper into destroying journalistic material, violating media protections.
  • It's under the guise of national security that the UK is planning to scrap the human rights act.
  • It's under the guise of national security that the UK, and other states including Germany, work with a foreign government to spy on their own citizens.

Of course, as the Snowden revelations and WikiLeaks publications made in collaboration with Der Spiegel and Suddeutsche Zeitung confirm, the surveillance system of the United States is the most abusive and pervasive. They spy not only on their own citizens, but the whole world, including almost every member of the German public, pretty much every member of the SPD, and the German government all the way up to Chancellor Merkel. Specific proof of this intense targeting, including evidence of the spying on Chancellor Merkel, Gerhard Schröder, and Helmut Kohl, was published just a few months ago by WikiLeaks.

I was heartened when I first arrived in Germany, and not just as I was finally able to eat more than Burger King - I tell you, Bavarian white sausage never looked so good! But the weekend I arrived, Der Spiegel carried the headline 'Asylum for Snowden'. I saw, and still see everywhere, stickers, posters, and demonstrations with this same call. The first parliamentary inquiry into mass surveillance was begun in the wake of Snowden's revelations.

However, there is still much lacking. The government, including many SPD members of parliament, have appeared to do all they can to block the possibility for Snowden to testify safely here, protected in Germany.

I have followed laws being pushed through, voted for almost unanimously by the SPD, that are a direct blow to the work of WikiLeaks and Snowden; an attempt to 'illegalise' WikiLeaks' work for transparency and democracy through the publication of official secrets, and to legalise the storing of telecommunication metadata.

Though the inquiry proceeds, it is still surrounded by secrecy. In fact it has predominantly been because of Netzpolitik and WikiLeaks that the German public have had much ability to access documents and many details of this supposedly transparent and democratic oversight process.

Despite WikiLeaks' more recent NSA publications of US selectors to spy on Germans, the BND is still being allowed by the German government to work more for the NSA than their own people by denying the inquiry committee access to their selector list.

Obama's overtures to Merkel seem to have worked.

Today, 54 years later, I suggest it is time for the SPD to repeat Brandt's words from 1961, when he said to President Kennedy, in another serious challenge to democracy: 'Berlin expects more than words. It expects political action'.

And I have certainly heard that sentiment echoed around me whilst I have been living here for the last two years.

I have repeatedly seen people's calls for Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to be given protection to come to Germany safely, testify, and claim asylum. Their work to expose mass surveillance and promote transparent and democtratic governments should be rewarded.

  • Political action to protect Assange.
  • Political action to protect Snowden.
  • Political action to protect Germany from US spying.

Yet currently, Julian Assange, the editor who's fought so hard for many years for our right to know, allowing many around the world to start to get justice, providing us all with greater transparency of governments and corporations by bravely publishing, has been trapped by the UK in one embassy, detained without charge for 5 years, under constant overt and covert surveillance, denied the right to claim his asylum, denied the right to medical treatment, whilst he faces lack of due process and the largest investigation into a publisher ever, abandoned by his country, unsupported by Europe.

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed to us all how we are being spied on by the US and UK, is protected only by Russia where he has asylum after assistance by WikiLeaks, from what history shows us will clearly be an unfair trial by the US government.

These men should be protected and freed. For the country willing to do so, it will mean having to stand up to the US to defend human rights and the rule of law. I ask that that country be Germany.

As Brandt said: 'Wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen' - 'Let's dare more democracy'.

I am very pleased that today, by awarding me for my work with WikiLeaks for Julian Assange and in getting Edward Snowden asylum, the SPD are showing a good step in once more following the path of Brandt in promoting and standing for our rights, democracy, security, and the right to asylum.

Willy Brandt spent a number of years as a political refugee, even forced to change his name for his security.

This award is for those that have been forced into becoming refugees because of their political actions on behalf of us all, and their work for our right to know. And for all those brave whistleblowers and activists that have yet to come forward - but we have seen they will - courage is contagious.

And this is especially for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange who, unlike Willy Brandt, has his right to asylum being denied - being blocked by a police siege for the last three years. I hope this award is the first step in more proactive and decisive moves to protect and fight for those truthtellers that are honoured via me today.

Thank you.

See Also
Heroes Banquet: Sarah Harrison
Heroes Banquet: Sarah Harrison in Berlin

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