2010-11-29 Cablegate: Journalists in defence of WikiLeaks [Update 1]

John Kampfner, The Independent / Index on Censorship: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority

"All governments have a legitimate right to protect national security. This should be a specific, and closely scrutinised, area of policy. Most of our secrecy rules are designed merely to protect politicians and officials from embarrassment. Documents are habitually over-classified for this purpose. The previous government made desperate attempts to stop legal evidence of its collusion in torture from reaching the public. Ministers argued, speciously, that this was to protect the "special intelligence relationship" with Washington. It will be intriguing to see how much information is allowed to be published when Sir Peter Gibson begins his official inquiry. Precedent suggests little grounds for optimism.

As with all free speech, as with Wikileaks, context is key. It is vital to know when governments collude in torture or other illegal acts. It is important to know when they say one thing in private (about a particular world leader) and do quite another in public. It is perturbing to know that aid agencies may have been used by the military, particularly in Afghanistan, to help Nato forces to "win hearts and minds".

These questions, and more, are vital for the democratic debate. The answers inevitably cause embarrassment. That too is essential for a healthy civil society. Good journalists and editors should be capable of separating the awkward from the damaging."
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Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment

"The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.[...]

Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment."
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Marc Cooper, The Nation: Why Not WikiLeaks?

"I don’t know about you… but I want to read more, not less, about this. Indeed, an editorial in Monday’s Guardian reads in part: “ Before US government officials point accusing fingers at others, they might first have the humility to reflect on their own role in scattering ‘secrets’ around a global intranet.”

If we had less government lying and secrecy during the run up to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, there might be a few more million living and breathing. I think that sort of benefit outweighs the quirks of Wikileaks."
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Nick Davies, The Guardian

Nick Davies posted the following messages on Twitter:

"US warned that today's Wikileaks stories would risk "countless lives". http://tinyurl.com/396oapm. That was a lie." (link)

"Wikileaks stories are all tales we would have published before - if official secrecy had not concealed them." (link)

Brad Friedman, independent journalist: In Wake of WikiLeaks Cable Release, JFK, Ellsberg's Remarks on 'Secrecy', 'Covert Ops' Worth Noting

"As this information becomes public, and as the U.S. Government continues to scramble to mitigate what the White House is calling today a "reckless and dangerous" leak, condemning it "in the strongest terms" as an alleged threat to national security, it's worth keeping in mind, for valuable perspective, what the 1970s legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote in an op/ed for The BRAD BLOG in early 2008...

'Many, if not most, covert operations deserve to be disclosed by a free press. They are often covert not only because they are illegal but because they are wildly ill-conceived and reckless. "Sensitive" and "covert" are often synonyms for "half-assed," "idiotic," and "dangerous to national security," as well as "criminal."'[...]

It would seem this "democracy", at least, has, in fact, "matched" exactly that conspiracy described as abhorrent by JFK. And we have all, collectively, allowed it to happen --- whether we had ever hoped or wished to."
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Ian Dunt, Politics.co.uk: The hypocrisy of the media attack on Wikileaks

"The traditional media has become so toothless it is reduced to attacking Wikileaks for doing its job properly.[...]

In every case, the western media reacted by, yes, covering the story, but pushing the narrative of an irresponsible outlet beset by anti-Americanism to the fore. Of course, no-one was calling Assange irresponsible when Wikileaks released "Kenya: The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances", which won the 2009 Amnesty International UK New Media Award.[...]

It's an indictment of the British media that its response to these leaks is one of condemnation rather than troubled inner scrutiny. Its general outlook is so conservative, its relationship with the establishment so cushy and its interests so scurrilous that it now condemns those who do their jobs properly. But perhaps there's something else. Wikileaks represents merely the birth-pangs of a new media, one that cuts out the middle man to reveal the documents in full. Perhaps the media feels things moving away from it, to a world of citizen journalists and information freedom.

That's an eventuality which would be far less likely if the traditional media did its constitutional duty and held the powerful to account."
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Javier Moreno, director of El País

"Let us say, as modestly as we can, that Wikileaks has allowed us to do great journalism. Journalism that changes history is needed by the citizens more than ever in a world where states and politicians are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies."

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