“Weak internet” stops Assange talk

22 November 2012

Despite Cambridge cancellation, Assange will make Hamburg keynote address day before the Union talk was to go ahead.

The Cambridge Union Society has cancelled Julian Assange’s talk, scheduled for 27th November, owing to “technical reasons”. It has been revealed, however, that Assange will deliver a keynote address via video link to the Convention Camp conference in Hamburg, Germany, on 27 November – the day before the Union talk was scheduled to take place – raising questions regarding the legitimacy of Assange’s excuse.

On Tuesday, the Ecuadorian embassy confirmed to The Cambridge Student that they had been plagued by a lack of strong internet connection, and that the alternative of using broadcast vans to stage the Union talk had fallen through. When quizzed today on why the German keynote address was possible when the Union talk was not, an embassy employee said: “I don’t know, because I don’t work for Assange, I just work for the embassy,” and advised us to contact Wikileaks.” He proceeded to inform us that Assange had previously “used a satellite connection, so may be doing that again.”

The Union reacted angrily to the news. In a Facebook post it stated: “The Union Society is disappointed in Mr Assange’s apparent dishonesty. We would have hoped that any individual or institution claiming to represent the interests of free speech and openness would be more straightforward in their dealings.”

The news also reflects badly on Susy Langsdale, CUSU Women’s Officer, who originally implied that the “technical failures” were an excuse manufactured by the Cambridge Union as opposed to the Ecuadorian Embassy. Speaking to The Cambridge Student on Tuesday, she said: “The CUSU Women’s Campaign is delighted that the Union has cancelled Julian Assange coming to speak. We are, however, particularly amused by their suggestion that the founder of Wikileaks had to cancel a week in advance for technical reasons.”

“We are disappointed that the Union has not had the intellectual honesty to admit the real reasons for this disinvitation nor to respond directly to the 178 of their members who expressed concern at the Union’s failure to address the wider issues of rape culture.”

Union presidential candidate Joel Fenster has promised a consultation next term on No Platform Policies following the cancellation of Assange’s talk: “I remain in favour of free speech as the Union’s chief principle, and opposed to No Platform, but also recognise the need to consult with members.”

“We must recognise the need to respond to members, which this process would enable. Whilst I am clear in my personal beliefs on the matter, as a democratic society there is a need to ensure that members who disagree are given a means of demonstrating this.”

Laurence Tidy & Ben Richardson – Co-Editor & News Editor