When Daniel Assange reluctantly agreed to talk with me two and a half months ago, his intention was to correct the misrepresentations that had been previously made about him in the media, clarify his often-misinterpreted relationship with his (in)famous father, and then move on with his life. He was not seeking attention; he did not claim to have any ground-breaking information on his father — he just wanted to set the record straight.
That should have been the end of it all. In the interview, Daniel made it very clear that he was never involved with WikiLeaks, and that he had not seen Julian Assange since the whistleblower last left Australia in 2007. He was comprehensive and thoughtful in his responses, and gave some great first-hand insights into the personality of the man that the world knows so little about. As an interviewer, I couldn’t have asked him to answer my questions more honestly and extensively than he did.
But now that WikiLeaks has once again become the biggest media circus in town, this no longer seems to be enough. Over the past week, journalists have been trying to track Daniel down by any means possible: Facebook, email, telephone, and even via me. Crikey understands that at least one overseas newspaper has asked reporters to wait outside Daniel’s workplace and approach him for comment.
To a certain extent we expect this from journalists — we all have stories to write, deadlines to meet and bosses to impress. But surely, in a situation like this, a bit of respect and restraint could be shown. Daniel Assange is not like most sources: he is not a (willing) celebrity, he does not work in any position that requires him to deal with the media, and he has played no role in the story into which he is being dragged.
Our lovely photo of Daniel has been attracting some attention too. In the last few days, myself and the people at Crikey have been approached by many different local and international publications including Radar Online, People Magazine and Italian Vanity Fair wanting to use our photo. We’ve declined all of these approaches.
True to his word, Daniel has shown no interest in doing a second interview, and has declined all the approaches that have been made to him so far. There’s good reason for him to keep a low profile: last week a blogger made the radical suggestion that the best way to stop Julian Assange was to physically harm or threaten Daniel. The post attracted so much attention that it has subsequently been censored, and the author has received death threats.
So, given all the attention that Daniel is now receiving, was his decision to do the original interview with me the right choice for him? I’d like to think it was. He’d already been misrepresented in an article by The New York Post, and he was going to have to make some form of public comment eventually, if only to distance himself from the WikiLeaks saga.
Daniel and I were friends when we were younger (in case you’re wondering how an intern got this interview), and at first I was concerned that I might be abusing the connection in doing the interview. Now that I think about it, though, it was something that Daniel needed to do, and it seems that he felt safer talking to someone he knew and trusted than a journalist he’d never met before.
From what he said in that interview, it’s clear that Daniel doesn’t have anything more to say about his father or WikiLeaks, which raises the question as to why journalists have been so persistent in trying to talk to him. At a certain point, efforts to contact him, especially over Facebook and at work, are just plain harassment. I write this not only as a friend of Daniel’s, but as an aspiring journalist who’d like to work in an industry that treats people with respect.