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Is WikiLeaks' Brand Of Social Media Journalism Losing Credibility?

When stories broke back in June that WikiLeaks was releasing sensitive military documents pertaining to the War in Afghanistan (see "Social Media Journalism By Wikileaks' Whistleblower Unfolds In Real-Time"), the world was aghast that a social media site that patterns itself after Wikipedia could have gained such access at such peril. Founder Julian Assange actually had to seek protection from the authorities and Iceland initiated a proposal for their country to become a  global safe haven for journalists like Assange where freedom of expression could be protected.

WikileaksWikileaksThe New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the same three newspapers that collaborated with WikiLeaks on the Afghan Diary in July are expected to release the documents shortly concurrently.

Now with announced release of over 400,000 additional documents pertaining to the Afghan War, the Pentagon is in stealth mode to prepare for the potential fall-out. According to an AFP news release, a Pentagon spokesperson indicated that they had set up a 120-person task force weeks ago to analyze the potential implications and damage these reports can do the United States of America.

Julian AssangeJulian AssangeBased on Assange's aggressive reporting style, there are are several actions afoot that look to undermine the man and his whistleblowing organization. In August, Bloomberg Business Week reported that the Pentagon demanded that WikiLeaks return all of the documents or it would "compel them to do the right thing."

Coupled with this military reprisal, it appears that the US' position to quiet WikiLeaks is shared by others. In August, The Guardian in the UK was one of the first news outlets to run with a "rape" accusation leveled against Assange by Swedish authorities, only to be cancelled a week later, when the controversial founder accused his accusers of a "smear campaign." However, even with Daniel Domschelt-BergDaniel Domschelt-Bergthe charges being dropped, the incident caused a lot of internal strife within the WikiLeaks' organization and led Daniel Domschelt-Berg, one of Wikileasks' spokesman to resign from the Web site.

In another Guardian report, WikiLeaks states funding has been blocked after the Australian government blacklisted the organization. Moneybookers, a British-registered Internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks' donations emailed the company to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist. Moneybookers' decision was preceded by PayPal freezing WikiLeaks' account dating all the way back to January, 2010.

Obviously all of these actions undermine the credibility of an organization that's been built on exposing unreported and covert activity surrounding the Taliban attacks, civilian deaths, NATO's strategy and Pakistan's insurgency. Whether it's the right moral decision for a social media news group to expose these type of reports is a source of great controversy. By 'leaking' highly sensitive and classified Intel to the enemy is cause for great alarm. However, there are those that believe the 'truth' should be made available no matter what, so that the public can decide on the outcome and protest if need be.

This is a dilemma that has plagued countries in war for centuries. The major difference today is the ability of a social media outlet to surface and deliver the news at a much faster clip. Is this immediacy a sign of rash decision-making? And if so, is it reason to put WikiLeaks' power base in check? Will undermining their credibility control the media from clouding the judgement of others? Or should outside organizations not be allowed to make these decisions for us? Your thoughts readers?


Comments
Oct 16, 2010
by Anonymous

Wikileaks

Thanks for proving why we still need professional journalists. What a terrible article.

Asides anything else, having its donation accounts revoked justifies Wikileaks's existence, not damaging its reputation. Unless you believe states happily allow threats to exist and seek to shut down non-threats.

Oct 16, 2010
by Anonymous

The wiki-leaks story goes to

The wiki-leaks story goes to prove something very frightening about the way that the state controls the media. The other media outlets all have access to similar information to what has been leaked and yet time and time again have lacked the gumption to go live with what they are uncovering.

Why? After all the romantic view is that journalists are always hungry for the next expose, tirelessly hunting down truth and publishing it... This could not be further from the truth. The large media organisations are highly politicised entities, publishing stories that manipulate the truth to the will of their power hungry proprietors. Those same proprietors are very much in bed with the western governments, they know that the status quo between news agency and state is in delicate balance. They need the state just as much as the state needs their favour.

That is not to say the balance is in favour of the state, the recent "bugging" scandal in the UK proves that newspapers hold considerable power over politicians. Despite being caught squarely with its pants down undertaking illegal phone hacking against celebrities, politicians, police officers and civilians on a vast scale the state took absolutely no action against News International. Why? You have to wonder what the newspaper holds over them that would discourage prosecution?

You can hold whatever opinion you like on the rights and wrongs of wiki-leaks actions... I put it to you that this is not what is newsworthy about the story. The fact that a high profile expose of any little piece of non-state controlled news has made it into the public domain is what is truly shocking. We are astounded because we are so unused to it and un-sanitised information that does not sugar or obscure the truth is now distressing to our coddled ears.

Oct 16, 2010
by Anonymous

Wiki-Leaks is very helpful

Yeah I really hope Wiki-leaks survives and continues with what they were trying to do before the western governments tried to stop it, because we need things like that to show the other side of the story, since there is ALWAYS 2 sides to every story, and unfortunately we only ever get fed one side!

Oct 17, 2010
by Anonymous

Absolutely right. I'm a

Absolutely right. I'm a working investigative journalist: this is the reality. If WikiLeaks is having its funding sources attacked, you can be certain there's a story there as well. The Pentagon has thousands of media 'specialists' on salary, likewise the CIA and the State Department---every major 'democratic government' has its 'communications teams.' Journalists are increasingly less part of the media process and increasingly part of the marketing process, except (sometimes) for the public broadcasters (BBC, CBC) and the philanthropically underwritten shops like ProPublica. The corporate media doesn't want WikiLeaks either: they rock the boat and strain the very relationships that make for bread and butter. (If you've ever watched a White House press briefing or a parliamentary scrum in UK, you'll see just how little politicians actually do respond. It's all too often a dance of misdirection. Push too hard and they'll never answer a question of yours again.)

If you want to know how the world really works (it doesn't: most folk are in way over their heads in this space) check out Armando Iannucci's screamingly funny IN THE LOOP. As a journalist who's worked in the Balkans and all over Eastern Europe and wrote for several nonUS Arab-domiciled newspapers (all of which were censored) en route, take it from me: the world is not as it seems. It's much better (Chilean and Chinese miners rescued against great odds) and much worse (lead-footed spin doctors in uniform).

Oct 19, 2010
by Anonymous

96 hours....

We frequently have a sort of "round table" discussion at work. The subject of little Julian recently came up. When asked my opinion of what the president should do, my reply was simply "96 hours". My puzzled cohorts asked what that meant. It's quite simple really. 96 hours would be the maximum time he would be allowed to live.

Nov 2, 2010
by Anonymous

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