Julian Assange has become a household name for the whistle-blower movement. If you follow international news, you’ll know that he is the leader of the Web site, WikiLeaks. As founder of Wikileaks, a nonprofit media organization with a goal “to bring important news and information to the public,” the Australian-born journalist has faced close media scrutiny.
THE WIKI HYPE & TIMELINE OF EVENTS
- WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 – the product of whistle-blowers, computer experts, and journalists.
- In 2010, WikiLeaks releases 251,287 American “diplomatic cables” (confidential embassy reports) detailing information about the Iraq war and Pentagon documents on Afghanistan. Media frenzy erupts. Read more detail here.
- In the same year, Assange is arrested for allegations of rape/assault. (He has noted these allegations are “politically-motivated” and a means to silence WikiLeaks).
- 2011: WikiLeaks disseminates military documents on Guantanamo Bay.
- 2012: WikiLeaks created The Global Intelligence Files (focused on Stratfor) and the latest work focuses on the Syria Files.
According to WikiLeaks:
“WikiLeaks has sustained and triumphed against legal and political attacks designed to silence our publishing organisation, our journalists and our anonymous sources. The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history. We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.”
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ASSANGE?
Assange, who stands accused of alleged assault and rape in Sweden, is now in the public eye once again, as Ecuador granted him political asylum in its London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. The BBC reported that Assange praised Ecuador for its help, and warned of future action on the part of WikiLeaks.
“While today is a historic victory, our struggles have just begun. The unprecedented US investigation against Wikileaks must be stopped,” Assange said in a statement. “While today much of the focus will be on the decision of the Ecuadorean government, it is just as important that we remember [former U.S. soldier] Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for over 800 days.”
The BBC added that UK Foreign Secretary William Hague warned “We will not allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so.”
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: YOUR OPINION
The first Amendment (as outlined in the Bill of Rights) of the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes that freedom of opinion and expression is a human right. As a journalist, I have my own beliefs about the freedoms of speech: censorship is an unhealthy practice, and people are entitled to their opinions. I can support WikiLeaks’ argument that “We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their own government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government through the media.”
But I wonder…In the case of sensitive, top-secret governmental information, should the freedom of speech be upheld? If information does more harm than good, should it still be expressed? On the other hand, can citizens trust governments if they don’t know what goes on “behind closed doors?”