Reporters Without Borders Condems WikiLeaks … Sort Of
By now, everyone has heard of Julian Assange, the contemptible world traveler who has made it his goal in life to publish dubiously secured documents to the Internet, often edited and without context. His site, WikiLeaks (which I won’t link to here, because … ick) recently published roughly 92,000 US military documents, many of which were highly confidential. Some of these documents included the identities of Afghan citizens working with the US in its ongoing war against al-Qaeda.
Yesterday, the group Reporters Without Borders condemned Assange for his recent actions. Kind of. See, RWB isn’t just a group of disinterested journalists for freedom of the press. They have a blatant political agenda, including a demand to free condemned cop killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
From their petition:
The death penalty is incompatible with the Rule of Law and should be abolished in the United States and in every other country in which it is still applied or maintained in principle.
Sorry, but that’s not reporting or defending free speech. That’s politicking.
RWB writes to 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.
They opine that Assange has endangered innocent civilians, which he certainly has. He also endangered many military personnel, but they don’t care about that. Nor do they care that the suspected “leaker” of these documents is a soldier.
We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.
Bradley Manning was correctly charged, but Reporters Without Borders purposefully misunderstands that.
“Respect for military regulations should not be at the Freedom of Information Act’s expense. The US defence department should not hide behind rules in order to openly practice acts of censorship and thereby deny the public’s fundamental right of access to information.”
But the video wasn’t obtained by WikiLeaks under the FOIA. It was leaked to them by a soldier. One who had no business releasing classified information. If RWB and Reuters are going to demand the law be upheld, then they must understand a soldier is obligated to abide by Military law. It is not up to one soldier to determine what information should be given to a foreign citizen. This is why Manning was charged.
I applaud RWB for correctly condemning Assange, who is an enemy of the US and should be treated as such. However, their real motives have nothing to do with the protection of innocent lives. They are worried about possible interference with their own cause.
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?
Certainly, freedom of speech and of the press are extremely important. But when a soldier in the military of any country releases classified information to a citizen of any other country with the full knowledge it will be published for the entire world to see, that soldier is a traitor. When a “reporter” establishes a goal – in this case, ending the war in Afghanistan – he ceases to be a reporter and becomes an interloper.
Assange isn’t a journalist. He is a political activist. His stated purpose is in direct conflict with current US policy with regards to our involvement in Afghanistan. He is an enemy of the state, nothing less.
Especially in the Internet age, freedom of information must be tempered with the interests of national security. To think anything else is naive. It is not up to a group of “free press” activists to decide which should take precedence.
While I applaud RWB for condemning Assange, WikiLeaks and the tactics used, it would be nice if they applied some common sense to their pseudo-legal arguments.
For more information on the Freedom of Information Act, the Wikipedia page can be found here, The Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act page is here.