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An inconvenient dissident: Human rights activism in the case of Julian Assange

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Iain Munro



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The article is based on investigations by two branches of the United Nations Human Rights Council into the treatment of the whistleblower journalist, Julian Assange – the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The UN investigations analysed for this ‘Acting Up’ article show that Julian Assange is an inconvenient dissident, who has been subjected to persecution by liberal democracies rather than authoritarian regimes. Previous research into whistleblowing has highlighted the courage and risks taken by individual whistleblowers in speaking truth to power however, this case highlights a different facet of speaking truth to power which shows how lawyers, activists and other professionals often refuse to do this because of the professional costs of speaking up for an apparently toxic individual. This article argues that the UN investigations have built a ‘counter-archive’ of suppressed facts about the case, which challenges the ‘collective amnesia’ of the public discourse. This case demonstrates that speaking truth to power requires not only individual courage but the active support of inconvenient dissidents, who lack other civil society support.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Driver DG, Andenæs M, Munro I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 03/07/2023

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Date deposited: 21/06/2023

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7323

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/13505084231183954


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