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In defence of freedom of expression: Journalists worldwide rally behind Wikileaks

By Aloysius AGENDIA

Journalists from over 40 countries, members of the Global Investigative Journalism Network have expressed their support for the whistleblower Wikileaks which recently released thousands of so- called “secrets” US military documents and files incriminating US and coalition forces, by clearly showing their “atrocities” committed in Iraq and Afghanistan since early 2000.

In a statement released on November 5 after several days of online deliberations, the journalists said they supported Wikileaks and its Australian founder Julian Assange in their efforts and quest for the truth and the promotion freedom of expression.

Most imperialists, neo-colonial, dictatorial and semi-dictatorial regimes have always relied on restrictions of the flow of information in a bid not to expose their excesses. 

 Some of the modern dictators brought to power albeit through democratic processes have always claims that the release of some information is not good for the security of the state.  Though their claims may be  true to an extend,  and  especially when it concerns  information on military installations, weapons etc,  the real issue is that, the release of  some  information is usually considered not too good for the safety of several corporate interests.

 Such acts are generally not for the interest of many peace loving people who are always brainwashed by some media moguls close to the imperialism cabal. The cancerous network is fast sweeping across Africa and the rest of the world in the name of privatisation.

According to the journalists' statement,…“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”. It was also argued by some in that lives can not be endangered, and peace cannot be achieved through the hiding of rapes, genocides, massacres, wanton destruction of property and sheer wickedness especially on armless civilians.

 It would be recalled that a couple of celebrity-media  and celebrity-journalists who specialised in publishing propaganda and lies ahead of the invasion of  Iraq, had already joined the co-alition of propaganda  by deliberately misinforming  the world through lies  that Wikileaks' released had endangered the lives of people. The propaganda is solely for selfish political and corporate interests.   

In trying to set the agenda from being that of the detailed investigation of the supposed crimes committed by the invading forces, to a so-called “endangering lives” by the released, the members of the Global Investigative Journalism Network therefore stood by Wikileaks in its action in favour of the truth.

The journalists, signatories did admit that there might have been legitimate criticism of Wikileaks errors in its earlier released, but they stressed that the “mistakes” made from the released on Iraq war/invasion  were corrected during the released of  later files. The issue was not then on the so-called lives endangered, but instead, the atrocities that had been hidden from the world.

“Overall, Wikileaks' factual reporting of numerous undisputed abuses and crimes is of far greater significance than the widely criticized mistakes over inadequate redacting.” The statement read.

The statement was signed by journalists from all the continents with journalists from the Nordic countries taking the lead. However, the conspicuous absence of the celebrity-media-journalists from USA, Britain and France who played the public relation role before, during and after aggression were noted.  That not withstanding, there were prominent investigative journalists on the list as you would see from the name of the signatories.

The statement was released in English, French Spanish, Italian and German.

Journalists' statement on attacks on WikiLeaks

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.

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