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1 Student Name: Student Number: Module Title: Submission Date: MAN Sin Tiang, Queenie 0422561 International Institution

December 12 2011

The Wikileaks revolution has ignited a debate on the responsibilities, the consequences and effects caused by the freeing of an unprecedented amount of information. How can we attribute to Wikileaks the democratic role traditionally assigned to journalism? Is Wikileaks the ³leaker´ or is it a journalistic institution?

2 INTRODUCTION The impact of WikiLeaks was tremendous ± it has published over 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables since 2007, stirring up an ongoing debate on whether the leaked documents pose a threat to national security of the state, and whether the public has the right to know were taken into account. The WikiLeaks phenomenon is always comparable to the Pentagon Papers in 1971, in which The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of freedom of the press over the government¶s need for secrecy. WikiLeaks, established in 2006, innovatively combined high-end security technologies with journalistic principles, its founder Julian Assange has been fighting in an information war or revolution, named as µliberation of conspiracies¶ (WikiLeaks, 2006). The weapons of WikiLeaks were the hightech surveillance technology and a belief in transparency, that ³information should belong to the public domain and should be a public good´ (Leigh, 2011). It could penetrate the government inside, revealing an avalanche of inconvenience truth about the government, which is about to create a new order in journalism and free flow in information. This paper attempts to analyze the role of WikiLeaks in accordance to the fundamental journalistic principles and whether it has performed as a leaker or a journalistic institution. In particular, evaluate the effectiveness of WikiLeaks and traditional media in terms of accountability and transparency. Issues about freedom of information, government¶s need for secrecy, technologies as new opportunities, free flow of information and the impact of WikiLeaks towards democratic system will be subsequently raised.

3 ACHIEVEMENTS OF WIKILEAKS Recognized of its journalistic excellence, the achievements made by WikiLeaks are multifold: (1) made use of technology or Internet as a platform to disseminate and source secretive information; (2) improved access to information and transparency; (3) exposed corruption of the government; and (4) influenced editorial decision through collaboration with media partners, and thus performed agenda-setting function to facilitate public discussion.

Technological collaboration with journalism New information technologies made the process of leaking information safe and secure, such as an open source cryptographic system PGP (abbreviated from µPretty Good Privacy¶) ± to protect the identities of leakers, reducing the risk of violating the law (Leigh, 2011). WikiLeaks has capitalized on the open architecture of the Internet, thus embedding their ideas of transparency and openness, and to allow navigation of the cables online. The launching of, where the cables are published on the Internet, has further enhanced free flow of information. With the secretive data being available online, viewers or journalists can download the information freely without prior permission, the Internet has enabled ³a renaissance of open discussion´ (Hague and Loader, 1999), stirring up public discussion on the leaked documents. Improved access to information By using high-end technology of encryption and surveillance, as a result, WikiLeaks made successful attempts in obtaining secretive cables

4 within the µprivate sphere¶ of the government and corporations. Private sphere refers to the information are intended to be made unavailable to the public sphere, in ensuring free flow of information within society.

Exposed corruption of the government For Julian Assange, the crux of establishing WikiLeaks is to reveal the truth of the government and corporation. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks are withheld by the government or corporations, claiming the data are sensitive and threat to the national security, and may cause harm as a result of exposure of the documents. For instance, the Guantanamo files were leaked in March 2006, revealing the operating manual for the camp which the US military has denied, and the details of the 779 detainees in the camp (WikiLeaks, 2006). Furthermore, the revelation of 760,900 documents regarding the war in Afghanistan, named as Afghan War Diary (WikiLeaks, 2010), supporting the truth that the death of civilians was covered up by the authorities. Another 250,000 classified embassy cables revealing that ³Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran´ and ³US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN leadership´ (Leigh, 2010 November 28).

Influenced editorial decisions through collaboration Indeed, WikiLeaks did not solely rely on publishing the cables online; Assange also leaked documents to several media organizations, collaboratively attaining the goal of ³bringing the truth to the readers without fear or favour´(WikiLeaks, 2009).

5 Assange has sought a collaborative solution in revealing the data with dramatic impact ± by in collaborating with media partners, such as New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, El País; (Keaten & Blackledge, 2010 December 3). Such conceptual framework allows the leakage of secretive cables to be disseminated to the public through media, creating much greater impact. He also decided to reduce legal risk by sharing the cables with other media in Germany and France, which is under different jurisdiction (Davies, 2010 July 25). From the media perspectives, the leaked diplomatic cables are considered as µpublic interests¶ or of high news value; the global media partners of WikiLeaks came to an agreement to write exclusively and extensively on the diplomatic cables. In this case, WikiLeaks indirectly influenced the editorial decisions, becoming a source of news, and attempting to ³transfer salience of the issues of importance from news media agenda to public agenda´ (Mccombs, 2004).

DEMOCRATIC ROLE OF WIKILEAKS IN THE SPECTRUM OF JOURNALISM The core philosophy and purpose of journalism is to inform and to engage citizens in the information society. Media scholar Michael Schudson (2008) suggested six functions of journalism in democratic society, including: informing the public; investigation; analysis; social surveillance; public forum and mobilization. The most obvious achievement made by WikiLeaks is to reveal the truth about the government or corporations, performing a µwatchdog¶ role in scrutinizing the government within democratic society. Transparency strongly identifies the need to hold the government and corporations accountable, by

6 disclosure of information previously was unknown. On the website of WikiLeaks, it stated the rationale of this µintelligence service¶: ³Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society¶s institutions.´ (WikiLeaks, 2006) This conforms to the social responsibility theory suggested by Theodore Peterson (1968), which is the product of the Hutchins report drafted by the US Commission on a Free and Responsible Press in 1947 (Blanchard, 1977). Supporters of this perspective believed that the press carried social responsibility in supporting democracy; it should protect rights of individual by serving as a watchdog, guarding against government¶s abuses of power (Siebert, Peterson & Schramm, 1968). Chief responsibilities of the press also include factual accuracy, representation of diverse views and promotion of open debate (Siebert et al., 1968). One of the biggest leaks in the US military history, the Afghan war diary, which consists of 91,731 documents, the remarkable details of the logs was made accessibility available for the first time (Leigh, 2011). The Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies revealed the fact that secret Task Force 373 hunted down Taliban leaders without trial: The United Nations¶ special rapporteur for human rights, Professor Philip Alston, went to Afghanistan in May 2008 to investigate rumours of extrajudicial killings. He warned that international forces were neither transparent nor accountable and that Afghans who attempted to find out who had killed their loved ones µoften come away emptyhanded, frustrated and bitter¶ (Davies, 2010 July 25).

7 Three months after the disclosure of the Afghanistan war logs, the Ministry of Defence in London (MoD) released documents ³in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act made by the Guardian´, admitting these shootings in Kabul had taken place, revealing at least 191 civilians were killed (Leigh, 2011; The Guardian, October 26 2010). The release of embassy cables and its media coverage constituted check and pressure against the MoD, its spokesman also responded the evidence with µdeep regret¶, it will develop strategies µto prevent insurgents from harming civilians¶ (The Guardian, October 26 2010). The war logs, classified as secret, revealed in details that a number of civilians were killed by the coalition forces. The development of this leakage is consistent with the purpose of the media laid down by the libertarianism theorists, which is to help discover the truth (Siebert et al., 1968). The naked truth of the war not only could it make accountable by the MoD, but also drove European leaders ³to challenge US President Obama over WikiLeaks¶ disclosure of the alleged torture in Iraq, and to raise the issue at the EU-US summit´ (Evans, Norton-Taylor & Leigh, 2010 October 26). In the context of democratic society, from the libertarian point of view, truth will prevail where media operates under the absence of government control (Siebert et al., 1968). The publication of leaked documents in Afghanistan war, as a result, did effectively hold the government accountable and respond to the truth. The next day of releasing the Afghanistan war cables, the New York Times reported "the documents increased pressure on President Obama to defend his war strategy´ (Schimitt & Cooper, 2010 July 26). In achieving the power of monitoring force, the press must be

8 independent and free from control of the state, in other words, performing the role of µforth estate¶ a term coined by Edward Burke (Hampton, 2010).

Impact of Social Media generated by the Leaks In the digital age, the impact of WikiLeaks goes beyond scrutinizing the government, the controversy on the classified cables generated immense attention in both blogosphere and twitter. According to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center¶s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 16% of the news link on the blogs and 24% on Twitter were about WikiLeaks (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2010). The media including WikiLeaks and its media partners has become a tool for mobilization, an emergence of ³participatory democracy´ or ³direct democracy´. In comparison to the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, security analyst Daniel Ellsberg decided to leak the intelligence documents to the New York Times, exposing the fact that US had deliberately expanded its war with bombing of Cambodia and Laos. The scandal eventually led to the rise of antiwar movement µMay Day demonstration¶ in 1971. Forty years later, the social response of the leaked documents was comparatively more instant and timely, immediately capturing major attention in both the blogosphere and Twitter. The Internet represents ³democratic renaissance´, offering a platform for public discussion across boundaries, making it ³open and participatory´ in nature (Moore, 1999). In the case of WikiLeaks, when Assange spoke about his ideal of µevery information is free and open¶ (Leigh, 2011: 45), it is crucial to understand the µcentral component of democracy¶, which is freedom of press and expression

9 that allows µfree flow of information¶ (Franklin, 1997). Franklin pointed out that: Journalists underscore basic democratic values; a free press is judged to be a central component of democracy. Journalists have come to symbolize freedom of the individual and they champion freedom of information, which once acquired, is used to expose corruption, oppression and exploitation. (Franklin, 1997: 27)

Improved transparency and visibility of the government by having free flow of information, does fill the gaps of our existing understanding of their performance. It is, therefore, justified to say that whistleblower WikiLeaks does play a crucial rule in democratic society, by making up the existing deficit of transparency.

Limitations of WikiLeaks as a democratic tool The ultimate control of power is in the hands of government, which determines the political and media system to be liberalism, democratic or authoritarian. Prior to publication of the diplomatic exposé, Assange together with the Guardian and New York Times did consider the legal risk of releasing the secretive cables to the public, whether they would be prosecuted under the British Official Secrets Act 1989 (Pilkington, 2011 May 11) or US Espionage Act (Nakashima & Markon, 2010 November 30). For instance, an intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was being accused of ³handling more than 50 out of 150,000 secret US government cables to WikiLeaks´, facing a possible sentence of up to 52 years (Pilkington, 2011 November 21). Due to the legal pressure from the US authorities on

10 WikiLeaks; a group of large corporations such as Bank of America, Amazon, Paypal retaliated by blockading Assange¶s organization financially, posing a threat to a closure of the leaking organization (Sonne, 2011 October 25). In response to WikiLeaks¶ release of US confidential documents, the US government strongly condemned any exposure of information on the issues of counter-terrorism or diplomacy that threatened national security. While American politician Peter King labeled WikiLeaks as ³foreign terrorist organization´, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that ³the disclosure is not just an attacks towards America foreign policy, it is an attack on the international community´ (Harnden, 2010 November 28). Indeed, state secrecy creates tension between fundamental values of democracy and practices of government in enhancing national interests (Dean, 2011). Secrecy also restricts access to official information, impeding public participation during the decision-making process and exempt from accountability of their actions (Aftergood, 2010). The issue of abusing state secrecy was eventually discussed at the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, Swiss delegate Dick Marty (2010) wrote in the report that state secrecy created ³a state within the state´ phenomenon, such lack of accountability undermined fundamentals of democratic institutions;

therefore, the appearance of WikiLeaks was the consequence of insufficient information made available. In the WikiLeaks debate, supporters argued that imposing injunction of leaking secretive information violates their right to freedom of expression written in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Freedom of press and expression are indispensable

11 element in attainment of truth (Lichtenberg , 1990), thus, the right of publishing diplomatic cables shall be protected and uphold by the First Amendment or the Freedom of Information Act, without interference from the public authority. In a similar case which involved the renowned Watergate scandal happened in 1971, US Military Analyst Daniel Ellsberg unleashed the sensitive Pentagon Papers, which exposed the scandal of Vietnam War, to the New York Times. The US Supreme Court held that the New York Times was allowed to publish the Pentagon Papers, writing that: ³The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.´ (New York Times Co. v. United States).

CONTROVERSIAL ROLE OF WIKILEAKS: LEAKER OR JOURNALIST? Leaking, by definition, refers to disclosing confidential information deliberately without authorization. The question is: does the whistle-blowing nature of WikiLeaks have association with the notion of the press or with the leaker? WikiLeaks did unleash huge dump of diplomatic cables, however, the ideology behind this organization is not only about µleaking¶ classified information, but also about its philosophical framework that combines with journalistic principles. It can be referred as ³a leaker with data-driven journalism´. WikiLeaks called itself as a non-profit media organization, and its purpose is to inform the public with important news (WikiLeaks, 2006). Assange revealed about the ambition of WikiLeaks in his

autobiography that WikiLeaks would become ³the first intelligence agency of

12 the people´, saying that this public spy network would protect public interests. (Assange, 2011). He called himself as µEditor-in-Chief¶ of the WikiLeaks, aiming to adopt a similar structure of a media organization, and ³elevate himself to the same sociopolitical standing as media giants such as Rupert Murdoch´ (Krotoski, 2011). He is also an advocate of investigative journalism, which is a ³noble art of seizing reality back from the powerful´ (Assange, 2011). Prior to the release of the Iraq war logs, both US and UK governments refused to inform total casualties, WikiLeaks disclosed the fact that at least 66,081 deaths since the invasion of Iraq (Leigh, 2011). Among the dead were two Reuters staff members, who were killed by US Apache helicopters in Baghdad. US Army initially claimed they were anti-Iraqi forces, Reuters attempted to obtain the footage from the Pentagon through a freedom of information request, but the request was turned down (McGreal, 2010 April 5; Steele, 2010 October 22). It was Bradley Manning who broke through the network by encryption and released the footage through WikiLeaks, the same video was being uploaded to YouTube, named as ³Collateral Murder´ (Sunshine Press, 2010), driving to public discussions on the justification of US government going to war in Iraq. The role of traditional media acts as a watchdog or fourth estate, but WikiLeaks cooperate with media playing a greater role in accountability. Instead of conducting independent investigative reports from each news media, alternatively, it has provided a new model of journalism ± collaboration instead of competition. It is neither profit-driven, nor ³following the traditional model of competing with other media´.

13 Beckett (2011) pointed out that accountability emerged to be more essential in democratic society, revealing the fact that the mainstream media failed to hold the governments accountable, thus posing challenges to traditional media. Apart from performing the role of informing the public, WikiLeaks has stirred a critical discussion and debate on the justification of the war. Anderson (2010) attributed such phenomenon as ³new ecosystem of news diffusion´, started off with WikiLeaks collaborating with The Guardian, New York Times and Die Spiegel; then from these media stimulating the public agenda through social media. All parties played a role in forming the informational chain, providing diversified and pluralistic perspectives of the war. However, Bill Keller argued that WikiLeaks is only a data site storing and leaking dump of classified documents, and it is just a source of information for journalists (New York Times, 2010). Since journalism provides narrative and context, as well as meaning around the data; it was the job of journalists who filter, analyze and redact the raw data into a readable, understandable and insightful news article. The organization culture of WikiLeaks is mainly about ³hacktivism´, implying it is hacking to pressure the government to be more accountable. In other words, it is a leaker equipping with high-end security technologies and adopting journalistic principles, their views on transparency might not essentially equivalent to the standards of traditional news media; and their central philosophy is that information should be free, combining with deep distrust with the authority (Leigh, 2011).

14 CONCLUSION Thanks to the development of computer hacking technologies and particularly the Internet, Assange¶s idea of WikiLeaks and its leakage of sensitive cables have driven a significant paradigm shift, in terms of executing the µwatchdog¶ function by the press. The dispatches effectively exposed the dark side of the government for covering up the national interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public agreed WikiLeaks has made ³the biggest leak in history´, shedding the light on the biggest decisions and motivations of governments, this also has radically transformed the media ecology. WikiLeaks did not succeed merely relying on its own; on the other hand, it succeeded on this battle of truth together with other media partners. Such unprecedented leaker-media partnership created a powerful fourth estate, their relationships were interdependent: the mainstream media took advantage of the surveillance techniques from WikiLeaks to obtain exclusiveness of the story, while WikiLeaks highly replied on the media to disseminate the dispatches, generating greater impact in the public sphere. The contradictory nature of war evidence and remarks made by the US government, has confirmed the existence of secrecy among the government. Awarding for his exceptional ideal fighting for human rights ± the public¶s right to know, Assange received ³the most outstanding contribution to journalism´ (Walkley Foundation, 2011 November), ³new media award´ for its Kenyan human rights report leak (Amnesty International, 2009) and ³gold medal for human rights´ (Sydney Peace Foundation, 2011). However, the WikiLeaks revolution has transformed into a genuine democratic movement. WikiLeaks acts as a catalyst for political outcry, not only does it enhance the accountability of the government, but also it helps

15 change in political system. The setup of TuniLeaks, which is a selection of WikiLeaks regarding Tunisian affair, revealing the corruption of the former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, gradually led to the collapse of Ben Ali regime (Spencer, 2011 January 14). Tunisian Independent Blogger group highlighted the significance of transparency; the public has been filtered from vital information. In order to facilitate the criticality of the public, TuniLeaks aimed at starting an open debate, by presenting and analyzing the facts related to the regime (Prince, 2011 March 27), the release of the cables to a certain extent did contribute in triggering the Arab Spring. Due to the success of TuniLeaks, the core concept of WikiLeaks has been ³spawned to other clone sites´, such as ThaiLeaks, BalkanLeaks, BrusselLeaks, which could be taken as a reference for countries undergoing regime change (Leigh, 2011). The future of WikiLeaks has presented to us infinite possibilities in the interactivity between journalism, politics and society. The invention of Internet and technologies, as a new journalistic infrastructure, has transformed the media ecology and landscape in disseminating news. The rise of social media and blogosphere has further ideally consolidated the idea of democracy, an ancient political system originated 500BC in Greece; that the distribution of power among Netizens is equal; and that made progress in enhancing transparency by sharing information. However, the power lies in the governments exerting controls by censoring the Internet or simply protecting its own secrecy. At this point, the fate of WikiLeaks is undetermined due to its probable breach of the Official Secrets Act or Espionage Act. But still, the aftermath of the leaked cables has inspired journalists, politicians and the public to rethink

16 the values, priorities and knowledge relating to the accountability within democratic system.


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