Anyone who comes up against the courageous, controversial Julian Assange, is “condemned to spend eternity discussing the cosmic meaning of Wikileaks,” wrote the New York Times’ editor Bill Keller recently, based on his deep involvement in the controversial saga.

While our two-hour, convivial meeting with one of Assange’s most-loyal supporters, Vaughan Smith, was no eternity, we certainly came away with a better understanding of Assange and his mission.

For some twenty members and guests who gathered at John Morris’ Marais apartment March 19, it was, above all, an opportunity to interact with Vaughan, who for thirteen months has given refuge and a platform to Assange,  first at the Frontline Club he founded in London, and later at his country house and estate, near Norfolk in Britain.

Many who attended came away with the impression that Assange and the ongoing issues linked with Wikileaks are still misunderstood by those inside and outside the journalistic community; that to a large degree, with the notable exception of the Economist, the British and particularly the Swedish media have been anything but kind to him; and that Smith, who defends him, tinged with some criticism, proudly believes he is doing the right thing in “standing up to the bully”.

One AAPA member noted afterward: “Vaughan Smith is a loyal supporter…he made it clear (Assange) is not a fugitive” as portrayed mainly in the British press.

Smith staunchly backs Assange’s right to “due process”, which he says he is having to fight hard for and he has little doubt extradition to Sweden would be followed by his transfer to a US jurisdiction.

He alleged that authorities are picking through legislation to see under what statutes they could pin something on him.

“I felt he was not getting a fair trial, a fair crack of the whip,” Smith maintained, all the while admitting that Assange, like anyone, has his flaws and had made mistakes in his view.

Smith, a veteran, independent journalist, said that many governments feel “everything should be secret until someone decides it shouldn’t”  but he believes “everything should be open until someone decides it should be secret.”

He said he felt Assange had “held a mirror up to the press,” and that one cannot “blame Julian Assange for a government’s reaction to leaks.”

 -Axel Krause andJohn Keating