University Graduate School of Journalism,WikiLeaks prosecution ‘will set a dangerous precedent’
“But while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment. Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.
The U.S. and the First Amendment continue to set a world standard for freedom of the press, encouraging journalists in many nations to take significant risks on behalf of transparency. Prosecution in the Wikileaks case would greatly damage American standing in free-press debates worldwide and would dishearten those journalists looking to this nation for inspiration.
We urge you to pursue a course of prudent restraint in the Wikileaks matter.”
WikiLeaks and the public interest?
But the question that has been overlooked in all of this is: just how valuable is the information revealed for leading members of civil society – public interest lawyers, human rights investigators, foreign policy analysts and critics? And has WikiLeaks helped or hindered their cause?
Al Jazeera put these questions to members of civil society in the US and beyond.
Legal experts and litigators have described the information revealed by WikiLeaks as “extraordinarily useful” in terms of providing evidence for legal pursuits and government accountability. Human rights analysts, meanwhile, explained that the Iraq and Afghanistan document dumps “present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war” – noting how a number of previously unknown details helped to further their work by “putting more meat on the bare bone”. And, for their part, foreign policy analysts and critics have praised the releases for exposing the foreign policy failings of the Obama administration.
What Would I.F. Stone Think of WikiLeaks?
While Stone cherished his iconoclast’s independence, joking that “establishment reporters undoubtedly know a lot that I don’t know. But a lot of what they know isn’t true,” he also felt that, in standing up the Nixon administration and printing the Pentagon Papers, the Washington Post and the New York Times had vindicated the honor of his profession. I have no doubt he would feel the same debt to the editors of today’s Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País. “To suppress the truth in the name of national security is the surest way to undermine what we claim to be preserving,” he wrote in 1966. “There is a is a Latin legal maxim—justitia fiat, ruat coelum: Let justice be done though the heavens fall. I would paraphrase it for newspapermen and say: Let the truth be told as we see it though officials claim the disclosure would cause the heavens to collapse upon them.
WikiLeaks as This Century’s Upton Sinclair
I find it interesting, though not surprising, that most discussions in the media about WikiLeaks focus on the suitable form of punishment for its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, rather than the nature of the diplomatic correspondence he and his organization have shared with the public. None of the documents were top secret—as they were either labeled secret, confidential or classified— and arguably they should be a part of the public domain. Some people are calling for the arrest and prosecution of Assange for espionage, and the branding of WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization. Rather than condemn Assange, we should commend him for doing all of us a great service.
Adam Westbrook: Goodbye mainstream media. It’s been fun.
At first I was unsure about whether Wikileaks was a good thing. Then I watched the footage from the Apache gunship circling over the streets of an Iraqi town, and mowing down more than a dozen people, including two Reuters cameramen, a father and his two children.
The film, made public by Wikileaks – and not by journalists – revealed the value the US military puts on a human life and, in stark black and white, how our governments have lied repeatedly to our faces. And worst of all, how our mainstream media have served but to amplify those lies.
So I’m sorry mainstream media. It’s been fun; but me, I’m done.