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July 12 2010


‘A real free press for the first time in history’: Wikileaks editor speaks out in London

Julian Assange, editor of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, has criticised mainstream media for not making proper use of “primary resources” and claimed that the site has created “a real free press (…) for the first time in history”.

Speaking at the Centre for Investigative Journalism Summer School at City University London on Friday, Assange accused the media of failing to consult the evidence available in its reporting of a 2007 US Air Force strike that killed two Reuters staff and several Iraqi civilians.

The attack became infamous after a video of the event was leaked through Wikileaks, entitled Collateral Murder.

Showing an alleged copy of the US Military’s 2007 rules of engagement hosted on Wikileaks, Assange said: “We had the raw ingredients you needed to decide right there. Why didn’t they use them?

“No one can be bothered to look up the term ‘positive identification’ to see what it actually is.”

He said journalism needed to work towards making more primary source material available online, arguing that this was the standard process for scientific investigations and it should be the same for journalism.

You can’t publish a paper on physics without the full experimental data and results, that should be the standard in journalism.

You can’t do it in newspapers because there isn’t enough space, but now with the internet there is.

Citing the Turks and Caicos islands investigation conducted by Wikileaks, Assange praised the anti-corruption reporting of online-only, local news outlet the Turks and Caicos Journal, which he said was hounded out of several countries after law firms threatened its internet service providers (ISPs).

Warning of a new “privatised censorship”, he said that the Journal’s Gmail account had been subpoened under US law and that when Google agreed to surrender the news outlet’s details, Wikileaks stepped in to provide a defence attorney.

Having warned that Gmail is a completely insecure way of storing information, Assange claimed that the Guardian had recently transferred all of its internal email over to the Google service.

He heavily criticised Google for its behaviour in the TCI Journal case, and challenged the actions of ISPs in India, Japan and the US for allegedly agreeing to cut the Journal’s internet access rather than risk incurring legal costs.

Alongside the TCI Journal there was praised reserved for Time magazine for publishing an extensive investigation into the Church of Scientology and defending its investigation at a cost of millions dollars, but with potential costs so high, Assange asked, “what are the incentives for publishers?”

Asked about Wikileaks’ funding, he said the site had had an application for a $650,000 grant rejected by the 2009 Knight News Challenge, despite being “the highest-rated applicant out of 3,000″, and heavily implied it was a politically-motivated decision. He said the the site had so far raised $1 million dollars in donations.

Earlier this year, Wikileaks put forward a proposal in conjunction with Icelandic MPs to create a safe-haven for publishers – and their servers – in the country. Last month the proposal, known as the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), was passed by parliament and will change Icelandic law, aiming to increase the protection afforded journalists, sources and leakers.Similar Posts:

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