Julian Assange will face trial in Sweden for alleged sexual assault. To many, this man is ‘Public Enemy Number One’. And following Wikileaks most daring move towards the end of last year, it is easy to see why he is the brunt of so much animosity.
On 28 November 2010, it started. Wikileaks published more than 100,000 confidential US cables leaked to them from an anonymous source.
Highly criticised around the world for jeopardising international relations, it gave very detailed information, and opinions on politicians and leaders around the world.
In spite of this criticism, there was rallying support from advocates of free speech, and when the website was blocked and payments to it prevented by service providers; there were huge repercussions — hackers (calling themselves ‘anonymous’) attacked websites such as visa and amazon.com, shutting them down.
The group also targeted governments of countries such as Zimbabwe and Tunisia, as they censored the release.
In terms of press freedom, this is possibly the best example of digital technology having a huge impact on broadcasting and press freedom. It is the epitome of free speech – and these documents probably would not have been published if it were not for the internet and Wikileaks’ technology.
It can be argued that this is free speech going a step too far, and raises the question “just how much do we need to know?”, and “is it worth releasing the information even if it puts lives at risk?”…regardless, it proves just how powerful digital technology is as a information provider.
The publication of the information on the Tunisian government’s self dealing and the excesses of the president’s family is one of the (and possibly the most significant) reasons for the people’s uprising.