Secrets outlet WikiLeaks deserves credit for revolutions sweeping across the Middle East, according to founder Julian Assange.
In an interview with the Australian news show Dateline, Assange told SBS' Mark Davis that the "material that we published through a Lebanese, Al Akhbar, newspaper was significantly influential to what happened in Tunisia."
Assange, 39, said cables leaked on his whistleblowing site questioning US support for Ben Ali gave citizens the confidence to rise up and influenced the decisions of surrounding nations on whether to intervene.
"And then there's no doubt that Tunisia was the example for Egypt and Yemen and Jordan, and all the protests that have happened there," he added.
Mass protests sparked partly by poverty and unemployment erupted across Tunisia last month, resulting in Ben Ali's overthrow, while an 18-day revolt in Cairo ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Hosni Mubarak.
Similar demonstrations have taken place in Jordan, Iran, Libya and elsewhere.
Australian-born Assange, currently awaiting a London court's decision on whether he should be extradited to Sweden to face sex assault claims, said the tide of popular discontent with autocratic regimes was "extremely gratifying".
"Yes, I've had all these troubles in London, but to see this happening elsewhere, it's worth every cent of time wasted on the other thing," the former hacker said.
Assange also said he had been forced to change his appearance due to the spotlight.
"When you are in this business, people try to take any point they can to malign you and stop the power of your publication. That is the same reason why politicians dress so conservatively, when they are under constant attack. It is something that I have to do in order to keep the focus on our material and keep the focus off me," he said.
This video is from SBS' Dateline, broadcast Feb. 13, 2011.
-- with AFP