Sex, Lies and Video Tapes: media in the digital age
Posted on December 15th, 2010
By Surangani Seneviratne
The arrest of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder exposes how the free flow of information is controlled and the freedom of press is defined. Mr Assange descended from an awarded journalist to a man most wanted by the Interpol in a short time. He was the front man for WikiLeaks, the website initially hailed to up hold the freedom of speech in the digital age. During its infancy, Julian Assange received numerous awards for exposing sensitive documents up loaded by those who had excess to classified information. The manner in which Mr Assange turned from hero to villain exposes not only the censorship and the withholding of information that goes on in corridors of power. This also reveals the spin given to the whole ideal of “‘freedom of speech”‘ and how the free flow of information is manipulated, and at times given to creating “‘news”‘ by those in power or with resources to control the media.
The technology to leak”‚¦”‚¦”‚¦
The internet provided an opportunity to individuals in any corner of the globe with the means of exposing state secrets with click of a button. The decoding technology that is for ever evolving helped potential whistleblowers to excess classified information. WikiLeaks made its début in December, 2006 with various documents up loaded by Chinese dissidents and by 2008 had received several awards including Economist magazine”‘s New Media Award and from the champion of “‘freedom of speech”‘ “- Amnesty International UK Media Award for exposing political killings in Kenya. In the early years, WikiLeaks was placed among Facebook, Youtube and Wikipeadia, and Julian Assange was marked as most likely to succeed along with Mark Zuckerberg and co who created these respective entities on the web.
WikiLeaks / Julian Assange”‘s work leaking secret government documents has been compared to Daniel Ellsberg”‘s leaking of Pentagon Papers in 1991. From Peru to Iceland, WikiLeaks had left trail of politicians and officials accountable. Engaged in “‘dialogue”‘ with authorities in Beijing, Teheran and Moscow with leaked documents.
Hero to villain: the descent of Julian Assange
The conventional wisdom of all those who desire success, wealth and fame are to follow the rules set by those who control the global media. By 2008 / 2009 when sensitive documents up loaded to the website were not originating from Beijing, Moscow, Teheran, Pyongyang or Colombo. Julian Assange disregarded views of mainstream media and pursued the truth by publishing classified documents focusing on Washington DC. WikiLeaks was now leaking secrets and directing the glare of publicity on an area that was conveniently left out by the mainstream media.
In April 2010, WikiLeaks released video tapes “-”‘Collateral Murder”‘ showing 2007 Iraqi war killing of civilians by US forces. Followed by, July 2010 release of 76,900 leaked documents of US forces”‘ “‘Afghan War Diary.”‘ Julian Assange released “‘Iraq War Log”‘- 400,000 leaked documents in October, 2010. And the US Diplomatic cables that are continuing to cause embarrassment and amusement started rolling out in November 2010. In an interview with Andy Greenberg / Forbes magazine on 29th November 2010, Mr Assange announced that a major release of leaked documents from “‘big US Banks”‘ and private sector was in the pipe line in 2011. When Andy Greenberg pressed on, “‘Bank of America”‘ was named, resulting in a massive fall of share prices immediately.
Giving little credence to WikiLeaks for US diplomatic cables that revealed what the US thought of former Australian PM “- Kevin Rudd, in The Australian editorial on 9th December 2010, Rowan Callick laments the fact that Julian Assange targeted the US State Department. This has been the bane to all reporting on WikiLeaks / Julian Assange”‘s disclosures in mainstream media.
In August, 2010, Reporters Without Borders, the group that is projected as the watch dog / protector of media freedom attacked WikiLeaks. Saying the website had “‘past usefulness in exposing serious violations of human rights and civil liberties”‘, now has no credibility, methodology and there is an absence of editorial content. It appears that Reporters Without Borders cannot handle the truth about what comes out of Washington DC.
In other parts of the globe he is “‘a prisoner of conscience”‘
By mid 2010, law makers from Washington DC to Canberra were searching their respective annals of law to convict Julian Assange. The very nations that preached freedom of speech and human rights are seeking / developing legislature to censure or to imprison Julian Assange. Conservative US politicians such as Sarah Palin and Joe Lieberman want him hunted like a terrorist and internet servers / companies to deny service. Hillary Clinton and the US State Department are seeking means of charging him on espionage.
Simon Benson, the Daily Telegraph (Australia) on 10th December, 2010 reported that while Julia Gillard, PM claims the “‘foundation”‘ of WikiLeaks is based on “‘illegal act”‘, the Attorney General- Robert McClelland”‘s office is yet to find Australian laws that have been breached. The Daily Telegraph went on to report how the sex crime charges Julian Assange faces originated at a Stockholm seminar in August, 2010. The two women who made charges of sexual crimes were at this seminar and are considered a honey trap- politically motivated sting.
In Australia, Julian Assange”‘s country of birth, the sex crime charges are seen as a set up to persecute and eventually silence him. While well attended marches protest against his arrest, a massive petition is being organized to be published in US newspapers calling on Barrack Obama to stop the persecution of Julian Assange.
Meanwhile, Julian Assange is held in a cell in London with no access to newspapers or internet, and no laptop. And his lawyers and associates are under surveillance. In other parts of the globe an individual treated in this manner is “‘a prisoner of conscience”‘ and his case taken by Amnesty International.
All leaks aren”‘t the same
Some sources have named as the forces behind WikiLeaks a handful of Chinese dissidents and a menagerie of internet geeks and left wing academics past their use by date. The facts are WikiLeaks has a world wide community of reviewers with expertise in language and IT to vet submitted documents, check background of the “‘submitter”‘ and discuss/ scrutinize leaked documents to verify authenticity. Even the critics including Reporters Without Borders have to admit that WikiLeaks has never released misleading leaks or misattributed documents.
When questioned about verification, Julian Assange said “‘misleading leaks”‘ are already well placed in the mainstream media. Britain”‘s Channel 4 could learn from WikiLeaks to verify leaked documents and tapes prior to broadcasting. There is a difference between the two media organizations. WikiLeaks is an independent organization committed to the truth, while Channel 4 is part and parcel of the mainstream media with “‘public service obligation”‘ to “‘promote multicultural society”‘. Hence, Channel 4 would broadcast the violent, misleading tapes purported to be the Sri Lankan Army executing prisoners to please sections of this “‘multicultural society”‘. We can only hope that no human life was lost in making these fakes.
Award for their dissident and prison for our awarded journalist
Russian PM- Dmitry Medvedev is reported to have suggested that Julian Assange to be awarded the Nobel Peace Price. Mr Medvedev who was also unkindly referred to in the leaked US diplomatic cables must be stating an irony “- Julian Assange gets prison for dissent while China”‘s dissident Liu Xiaobo is awarded the Nobel Peace Price. Russia is well aware of the political nature of the Nobel Peace Price and Norwegian habits of rewarding.
Amnesty International, an organization that protects prisoners of conscience and human rights has been silent on the Julian Assange”‘s arrest and persecution. UN”‘s Navi Pillai has given a mixed massage “- protesting on free speech while at the same time approving Julian Assange”‘s arrest.
The future of freedom of speech and internet censorship is being tested here. US, Australia and other nation that preach human rights and up hold freedom of speech are increasing internet censorship and curtailing free speech within their shores. In this background, would WikiLeaks be shut down or would it be reinvented. The later is more likely – pursuing leaks exclusively from Beijing, Moscow, Teheran, Pyongyang or Colombo.