Wikileaks and media partners battle over release of U.S. documents

On September 6, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, responded to the recent media coverage surrounding the release of unredacted documents and in response to the critical comments made by some of the organization’s major media partners.

Last week Wikileaks uploaded thousands of unfiltered documents to their site revealing the names of protected sources which had spoken to U.S. diplomats. This action put the lives of the sources in danger. Four of Wikileaks’ media partners – the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and El Pais- quickly spoke out against the controversy.

Together the publications “deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted state department cables, which may put sources at risk.” The media partners moved to distance themselves from the site claiming that Assange had worked alone in publishing the exposing documents.

In his response to the blast, Assange claimed that the Guardian had already published an encryption key to the documents. He said this act of “negligence” had given cause for adding the uncensored material to the site.

In his video interview Assange said,”Let us look at this case properly — the Guardian newspaper revealed the entire encryption password including that component they were instructed never to write about.”

Both sides continue to play the blame game over the release of the highly sensitive information. Who do you believe should be held responsible? Should a site like Wikileaks be allowed to publish secret government documents?

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4 Comments on “Wikileaks and media partners battle over release of U.S. documents”

  1. Honestly, I believe Wikileaks should be held to the same standard as any other news organization. Publishing documents like these is nothing new for journalists. It is what has earned many newspapers critical acclaim; however, this is not to say that Wikileaks should have no regard to the consequences of their actions. They should have discussed the possible ramifications of their actions, and understood that they are held accountable to the public and how these documents might affect the public. They should be responsible with the kinds of things they put out into the world.

  2. kllado89 says:

    This is an essential case study to better understand what guidelines news organizations and reporters should follow when reporting on sensitive or classified government information. Furthermore, this is an excellent case to examine the legal ramifications of free-speech rights (domestically and internationally), as well as to distinguish news from the dissemination of random information as some kind of “pseudo news.”

    This case could be examined legally as it regards to free speech and espionage, which would require a much more lengthy comment for analysis. However, aside from legal matters, this topic is especially interesting from the standpoint of how the various news organizations handled the government cables, as opposed to how Wikileaks handled them.

    The difference between the two being that the news organizations did not haphazardly post random government cables in their entirety, nor did the news organizations print the cables without some sort of context through which this information could be understood. Rather than following suite with Wikileaks, the various news organizations filtered, coordinated (with the government), and made sense of the cables to make them–along with all the military jargon and code found within the cables–understandable and relevant to the masses. Ultimately, answering peoples’ questions: “Why am I reading this… why does it matter?” This, being the paramount distinction between journalism and the random dispersion of classified information by a single agent. Moreover, the New York Times actually consulted the government to ensure that the information that did go to print from the cables would not in turn harm civilian lives, military lives, and the national security of the United States.

    It is crucial to note that without a background to a story, which journalism always provides by offering a context/meaning, the information ceases to hold weight or carry with it any socal impact. In the case of the government cables, the New York Times, along with the other news organizations, did what Wikileaks failed to do insofar as informing their audience. The news organizations answered the most important question, “So what?”

  3. tmh1121 says:

    I believe that the Guardian and Wikileaks are both responsible. The encryption that the newspaper printed is equally as revealing as the document itself. I am not sure that the Guardian’s encryption should give Assange any sort of “cause.” That seems like a personal choice and a childish decision to blame the other publication. I do not think that sites like Wikileaks should morally be able to publish secret documents, but, unfortunately, they are and probably will not stop.

  4. mflamini6 says:

    This is truly a hot button issue right now. National security, freedom of the press, privilege of information and the right to publish all come into play with the Wikileaks controversy.
    While Asange’s acts are bold and in some instances quite unsafe, I find him incredibly interesting. He goes the extra step in finding the truth and reporting it. When it comes to journalism, I truly believe that the public needs to be in the know. The information is now out there, and it is up to the general public if they want to look at the documents. This issue is incredibly controversial, and my opinion on it changes everyday.


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