The US is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy and obfuscation where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organisation can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or for espionage, and the journalists from a media organisation with them, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a UN forum through a video link from the Ecuador embassy in London on Wednesday.
US Army Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, who was arrested in 2010 for allegedly passing classified documents to WikiLeaks, was charged with a death penalty offence as the US tried "to break him" into testifying against Assange and WikiLeaks, Assange said.
In June, Assange sought protection and requested political asylum from the Ecuador government, to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning in connection with alleged sexual misconduct. He was granted asylum last month.
The forum, focused on diplomatic asylum, was organised by Ecuador's permanent mission at the UN, and was led by Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patiño.
Assange also criticised what he described as US attempts to take credit for pro-democracy movements in the Middle East, popularly referred to as the Arab Spring, and claimed WikiLeaks played a role in exposing the US role.
Tunisian protester Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could be reelected, Assange said. "The world knew, after reading WikiLeaks publications, that the Ben Ali regime and its government had for long years enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the United States - in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes," he added.
"It must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes that the US administration supported change in Egypt," said Assange who accused US president Barack Obama of trying to exploit the reforms of the Arab Spring for his re-election campaign in footage of the speech provided by Russian news channel RT.
WikiLeaks has published leaked diplomatic cables and other information that embarrassed several governments and international businesses.
Assange could not travel to New York as he cannot step out of the embassy without being arrested by British police who surround the building. The UK has refused to grant him passage to Quito stating that the government is under obligation to comply with court rulings and send him to Stockholm. But Assange's supporters fear that from Sweden, he could be transferred to the US to face charges under the country's Espionage Act.