Friday, 13 August 2010

Press freedom group attacks 'incredible irresponsibility' of WikiLeaks' Assange

Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders has written an open letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accusing him of "incredible irresponsibility" and "endangering the future of the internet as an information medium" by publishing the Afghan War Logs.
The lettter says: "Dear Mr. Assange, Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.
"Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April’s publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative."
The letter, signed by Jean-Fran├žois Julliard, RWB secretary-general, and Clothilde Le Coz, RWB's rep in Washington DC, adds: "But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks... The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment? Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods. We look forward to your reply."
  • Pic: Jon Slattery


David Altheer said...

Newspapers that did not buy Assange's leaks seem more than a little jealous of the 3 that did. One of the critics, The Times, several yrs ago faced similar rebukes from envious rivals over potentially revelatory leaks it published that later had serious repercussions. I can't help sensing a lot of envy around this issue. Isn't it a primary role of journalists to find info that, to adapt a famous quote, someone somewhere doesn't want everyone everywhere to read?

Iain Hepburn said...

Newspaper jealousy is one thing, certainly, and there is a touch of that in some of the broadsheet reporting of Assagne's work.

But at the same time, when you have NGOs such as Amnesty... AND press freedom campaigners.. AND even the papers you were working with all being openly critical of the way you have handled the data, surely that's the point you stop and reevaluate whether the approach taken is the right one.