Wikileaks – The Cablegate Scandal

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.

Published in many papers around the world — The Guardian in the UK, Der Spiegel, New York Times, El Pais (Spain) and Le Monde.

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, 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.


About Adrian

Musician, Entrepreneur, and Zen practitioner/teacher based in The Lake District, UK.
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12 Responses to Wikileaks – The Cablegate Scandal

  1. Ruben Martínez says:

    Wikileaks has had a massive impact on press freedom and also journalism. To many, it will change the trade, but to others won’t. Spain held an Interesting debate last week on wikileaks and the future of journalism where the directors of each of the publications with access to wikileaks discussed its impact and future of the trade. Despite being in Spanish, have a look at their conslusions (you can translate it)

    On the other hand, I would strongly recommend “Wikirebels”, a documentary made by Swedish tv channel SVT and based on the wikileaks. It goes beyond the leaks and is a brilliant work on Julien Assange’s life, citizens’ right to know more about public affaris, transparency, freedom of speech and its effects in our world.

  2. Adrian Naik says:

    Thanks for the links Ruben, all very informative!

    There have been some journalists who see it as a threat, but I don’t think this is the case — all those newspapers in the post (as well as every other news agency!) have milked the stories from Wikileaks for ages.

  3. I think they certainly need to be careful about what they publish. As you say, anything that could be considered to put a large number of people in danger through confidential information being leaked should probably not happen. Obviously wikileaks are providing a fantastic service and underlining exactly what is really happening in certain countries and governments – and for that they should be praised. I think they just need to be really selective about what the publish and also when they publish it. At the end of the day the public have a right to know what is going on and wikileaks are allowing this.

  4. Adrian Naik says:

    True James — some people would say being ‘selective’ would just be another form of censorship and defeats the point of the website.
    But people they really do need to be aware of the damage that could be caused, just by information!

  5. Claire Jones says:

    I agree. Wikileaks is a fantastic service; it’s shaping journalism for the future really. I regarded Julian Assange so highly and had so much respect for his contribution to journalism. The fact he will be facing trial for sexual assault is just what all those against Wikileaks need. This will really muddy the water and question his authority and reliability…

  6. As I mentioned in the twitter discussion during your presentation, I stand firmly that Wikileaks is a revolution in journalism. People do have the right to know what is going on. Yes, there has been worries that some people may be in danger for saying things that may have upset others but I think at the end of the day, no-one is going to face death from the information provided by Wikileaks. It is all scare-mongering. I know i may sound cynical but i agree with Claire, Wikileaks is, or was, a fantastic service. The only person in danger is Julian Assange himself who I think is facing trial for false accusations of sexual assault… I believe this is an attempt by authorities to make people question the websites reliability as they are afraid of the world knowing the truth.

    • Adrian Naik says:

      A revolution in journalism : yes. But that does not make it okay to publish everything. The example I gave, Morgan Tsvangirai: here Zimbabwe’s prime minister was revealed (by Wikileaks) to have encouraged sanctions on the country. This was completely against what he had promised Mugabe he would do as part of the power sharing agreement.

      You cannot argue that if he didn’t want it published he shouldn’t have said it: what is said in private may be done so for a very good reason. The rules are especially different when dealing with a mass-murdering dictator.

      The man’s life was in danger, and may still be. He has already been beaten and tortured to an inch of his life. To publish that information and risk it all again was a disgrace.

      By the standard that all information should be available – patient records, legal consultations – all these should be freely publishable. Rubbish.

      Would it be right to publish confidential medical details, or name children in sexual assault cases?

      The public has the right to know some information; other information should stay secret.

  7. no every kind of information can’t be revealed because some are sensitive, yes. I suppose this is where the notion of ethics comes in. no actually forget ethics, it should’ve been just common sense to not publish the stuff about Tsnagvirai.

    Assange should’ve known about the situation, without which he’s not ticked a major box of responsible journalism – know the significance of what you publish.

  8. acpart says:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    That’s latin. Because I am clever. I means “who guards the guards?” or, more famously (if you’re into insane, epic graphic novels), “who watches the watchmen?”

    How do we know that Assange, or even shadowier people within Wikileaks aren’t holding stuff back that contradicts their world view?

    We don’t. Which means that we have to factor in the same biases and stuff we have with traditional media. Although, really, we’re not sure what those biases are yet.

    Maybe antisemitism?

  9. Laura Makin-Isherwood says:

    I’m not sure about this whole wikileaks situation…and these comments have really made me think about it, so thanks guys!

    I completely agree that the information published by Assange et al it a fantastic service, particularly with regard to the freedom of information and encouraging the awareness of ‘secret keeping’ in our supposedly liberal and free western world.

    However, on the moral and ethical dilemma, I’m not sure putting lives in danger is the nicest outcome. I don’t think I’d sleep too easy knowing information I’d published got someone murdered, regardless of what was revealed.

    Why not tell the police then? Well, the police are over-ruled by the government…and Alex’s point about ‘who watches the watchmen’ is completely true.

    What are we to believe? Without having all the information in front of us (goodness that would take a few hours to read) we can never really know.

    I am sad though, that Assange’s court case will muddy the waters as Claire says. It’s a pretty phenomenal site to have created, and no mean feat to become the person to be trusted with such wires. Nice one.

    I do think it’s funny though, that the public here in the UK – whilst shocked about what was revealed – haven’t really run with the information. I would have thought there would have been a greater reaction to what was revealed?

  10. alexjourno says:

    Assange is an interesting case. I thought initially it was a brilliant thing that he was finding out all of the dirty secrets of these elected goverments, which are supposed to have a free press, and exposing them.

    But his case does go to show that there should be limitations of press freedom. Where it harms national security, risks lives in places like Afghanistan, or harms relations between countries which could end up leading to war – and again people dying – it’s a bad thing.

  11. Claire Jones says:

    Laura I was the same, I didn’t know enough about Wikileaks, it was down to this unit and presentation that I had the opportunity to find out more about it. Also from all the comments we have received on our blogs I’ve been able to gain a better understanding and form more of an opinion. It’s a great way to properly digest other outlooks on it.

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