Australian Journalists Support WikiLeaks

by Kevin Jon Heller

A coalition of 26 of Australia’s most prominent journalists — essentially, the editors of every major newspaper (with the exception of the right-wing The Australian) and the news directors of all the major networks — have written a remarkable open letter to Julia Gillard criticizing the U.S. (and Australian) government’s attacks on WikiLeaks and threats to prosecute Assange.  Here is a snippet:

The leaking of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables is the most astonishing leak of official information in recent history, and its full implications are yet to emerge. But some things are clear. In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret.

In this case, WikiLeaks, founded by Australian Julian Assange, worked with five major newspapers around the world, which published and analysed the embassy cables. Diplomatic correspondence relating to Australia has begun to be published here.

The volume of the leaks is unprecedented, yet the leaking and publication of diplomatic correspondence is not new. We, as editors and news directors of major media organisations, believe the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling. We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal. Any such action would impact not only on WikiLeaks, but every media organisation in the world that aims to inform the public about decisions made on their behalf. WikiLeaks, just four years old, is part of the media and deserves our support.

Already, the chairman of the US Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, is suggesting The New York Times should face investigation for publishing some of the documents. The newspaper told its readers that it had ‘‘taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security.’’ Such an approach is responsible — we do not support the publication of material that threatens national security or anything which would put individual lives in danger. Those judgements are never easy, but there has been no evidence to date that the WikiLeaks material has done either.

There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as ‘‘illegal’’. So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.

To prosecute a media organisation for publishing a leak would be unprecedented in the US, breaching the First Amendment protecting a free press. In Australia, it would seriously curtail Australian media organisations reporting on subjects the government decides are against its interests.

This is how a real media acts — one that is more interested in educating the public than being invited to barbecues and receiving six-figure book deals to write hagiographies of famous politicians.  And to think, Australia doesn’t even have a First Amendment!

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/12/14/australian-journalists-support-wikileaks/

One Response

  1. I think Ron Paul’s response to the Wikileaks scandal is enlightening as well. ““But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government should prosecute an Australian citizen for treason for publishing U.S. secret information that he did not steal? And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well… The New York Times, as a results of a Supreme Court ruling, was not found guilty in 1971 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg never served a day in prison for his role in obtaining these secret documents. The Pentagon Papers were also inserted into the Congressional record by Senator Mike Gravel, with no charges of any kind being made of breaking any national security laws. Yet the release of this classified information was considered illegal by many, and those who lied us into the Vietnam war, and argued for its prolongation were outraged. But the truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack. which perpetuated a sad and tragic episode in our history.”

    While I happen to disagree with a lot of Ron Paul’s politics as he claims to be a libertarian to cover up the fact that he is anarcho-capitalist, he is spot on as the only true champion of the flow of information on the house floor. Thinking back to Mill and his defense of freedom of speech based on the idea that a free market of ideas is conducive to the presence of truth and progressive society, Paul’s point that the lies themselves are what got cause the casualties not the leaking of the lies has merit. Perhaps if the lies were exposed sooner, we could have avoided the casualties that ensued.

    It also seems funny to me that there is an attack of wikileaks from all sides of the political spectrum. One could label it nationalism, in that these politicians attacking wikileaks are all united against a threat to national security, but it seems more likely that these politicians who are usually at each other’s throats realize that their only power arises from an infrastructure of secrets and are reacting to a threat.

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