Friday, December 10, 2010

Shooting The Messenger: The Persecution of Julian Assange

"We support a cause that is no more radical a proposition than the citizenry has a right to scrutinize the state." --Julian Assange

The traditions of Western Journalism run deep and strong in Wikileaks despite the attempts of some to divert, dodge and evade the real issues that Wikileaks actions have brought to light.

What are those real issues?

1. Some Governments engage in corrupt, illegal, immoral and/or unethical acts.
2. Some Governments would prefer to create scapegoats to take the blame, rather than take responsibility for their own failures.

Let's look at Issue 1.

The citizenry of most democratic countries elect their representatives. In order for us to elect them responsibly transparency in government is required. 

Too much secrecy takes away from that transparency and enables those who are corrupt. It enables those who wish to abuse their power by committing illegal acts against those they don't like or misappropriating government funds or any of the many other crimes that corrupt people in positions of power tend to commit.

As much transparency as possible is necessary to prevent this.

That's not to say there isn't such a thing as legitimate secrets. However, these should be few and far between and it's the Government's responsibility to protect them. No-one else.

Frankly, looking at some of the Wikileaks documents marked Secret I can only conclude that many  governments go way too far when it comes to identifying and defining what they think the population shouldn't know or see.

That said, let's look at Issue 2.

According to many Government Officials and Elected Representatives around the world Julian Assange is a criminal, a terrorist, a spy, has committed treason, should be assassinated (yes someone actually said that and it was a Canadian government official), etc.

And yet, what crime has Julian Assange actually committed? None. 

The only crime that was committed, was committed by the person who actually took the documents and gave them to Wikileaks.

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are doing nothing more than acting in the tradition of Western Journalism, creating a news feed of material they receive and releasing that material to other Journalists and the Traditional Media much like AP (Associated Press) does.

Do Journalists have any obligation or responsibility to keep Secret material obtained secret? No they don't. If they did, Watergate would never have happened and corrupt government officials would never have been held accountable for their crimes.

Do Journalists have any obligation or responsibility to protect their sources? Yes they do. If they didn't no-one would ever come forward to expose corruption, abuse of power, fraud, etc. from high places. We need them to be able to do that in order to protect, maintain and keep our democratic system strong.

This feature of traditional Western Journalism needs to be protected if we want to protect our democratic system. They work hand-in-hand.

For that reason, our democratic system has a duty and obligation to protect any Journalist who is acting in that tradition from persecution and abuse. Not doing so weakens our democracy and enables corruption.

And sadly, it's that very tradition that's been lost in the modern traditional Media. We can no longer count on that Media to do their job.

So, along comes Wikileaks to fill in that gap and perform the Public Service that the modern traditional Media abandoned.

And Governments around the world want to suppress them, scapegoat them, kill them. Corporations they do business with are withdrawing services they have legitimately paid and contracted for.

And Assange has been personally victimized with specious charges of "sexual assault", the timing of which make them appear to be more about discrediting and smearing him, than any actual criminal act on his part.

Why is all of this happening? Because Assange and Wikileaks are doing their job!

The end result of which is the potential embarrassment and exposure of abuse of power, corruption, immorality and unethical behavior at the highest levels of the government and corporate world.

In other words, this is what these Governments really consider a crime and "treasonous":

Free Speech and an Independent Media that acts as a Watch Dog over Government and Corporate corruption and crime.

In my opinion, the only real crimes here are Government incompetence at maintaining their own security and their shooting of the messenger by persecuting and scapegoating Julian Assange.

If you want to help Wikileaks and have a Unix box, mirror their site to ensure the material remains available.

Let's protect Free Speech and an Independent Media that acts as a Watch Dog over Government and Corporate corruption and crime!

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