Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why shoot the messenger?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has angered U.S. authorities by publishing secret diplomatic cables, was remanded in custody by a British court on Tuesday over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, had earlier handed himself in to British police after Sweden had issued a European Arrest Warrant for him. Assange, who denies the allegations, will remain behind bars until a fresh hearing on December 14.

Journalists and people from other professions from every region of the world joined together to support the whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange who  have provided an extraordinary resource for journalists around the world and made "an outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars". The journalists organizing this effort continue to support Wikileaks and Assange after the latest release of U.S. State Department documents.



Journalists' statement on attacks on WikiLeaks
[from Global Investigative Journalism network]


Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks, is being angrily criticized and threatened for his part in huge leaks of military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (the 'War Diaries'). He is being accused of irresponsibly releasing confidential military information, of endangering lives of people named in the leaked military reports and even of espionage. Some media organizations have joined in this criticism.


We, journalists and journalist organizations from many countries, express our support for Mr Assange and Wikileaks. We believe that Mr Assange has made an outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, subjects where transparency and accountability has been severely restricted by government secrecy and media control. He is being attacked for releasing information that should never have been withheld from the public.


We believe Wikileaks had the right to post confidential military documents because it was in the interest of the public to know what was happening. The documents show evidence that the US Government has misled the public about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and that war crimes may have been committed.


Has Wikileaks endangered lives? There was legitimate criticism of Wikileaks for not vetting the Afghanistan documents fully enough, with some names such as informers being released. Fortunately there is no evidence that anyone has been injured or killed as a result. We note that Wikileaks learned from that mistake and has been much more careful with the Iraq documents. Overall, Wikileaks' factual reporting of numerous undisputed abuses and crimes is of far greater significance than the widely criticized mistakes over inadequate redacting.


Mr Assange is being personally pressured because of his involvement in the military leaks, including threats of espionage charges. Mr. Assange is no more guilty of espionage than any journalist or any whistleblower. This is a terrible precedent and one that is contrary to open government.


If it is espionage to publish documents provided by whistle blowers, then every journalist will eventually be guilty of that crime. Mr Assange deserves our support and encouragement in the face of the attacks.


Since it was launched in 2006, Wikileaks has been an extraordinary resource for journalists around the world, furthering transparency at a time when governments are reducing it. Although it is not part of the media, and does not purport to be, its mission of informing the public and reducing unjustified secrecy complements and assists our work. As grateful beneficiaries of Wikileaks and Mr Assange's work, we stand in support of them at this time.


WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.

[excerpts from the editorial written in The Australian by WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange]


WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?


Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.


People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.


If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.


WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain's The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.


Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden", a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister's office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.




Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You'll risk lives! National security! You'll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can't be both. Which is it?


It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.


US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn't find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.
But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:


► The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.


► King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.


► Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran's nuclear program stopped by any means available.


► Britain's Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests".


► Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.


► The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.


In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government". The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth


I applaud WIKILEAKS for bringing out the truth.I am sure even if one Assange is arrested more and more Assanges will take his place.

Links
Journalists support
The Australian

6 comments:

  1. very informative post.

    in view of this, guess we must redefine the concept of classified documents.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bones,
    I think each and every human being should agree with this. The US and other Western Govts would have agreed to it if the leaks were about China,Iran,Cuba etc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. KPJ,
    Any document which can help in preventing Wars or that can show the anti-people attitudes of modern day Govts should come out in open.

    ReplyDelete
  4. USA is embarassed and hence this reaction....but this world needs more Assanges.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Happy Kitten,
    True we need more Assanges and also people like the brave US soldier who gave all these cables to Wikileaks.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.