Freedom of information comes with a price


In this time and age, information is very important. In 2006 Wikileaks, a non-profit organisation founded by Julian Assange, was set up with its sole aim to disclose to documents and information from anonymous sources which are ordinarily not available to the public.

Anybody can add a document to the Wikileaks website and an unknown team of editors confirm the authenticity of the document. They usually aim to publish and comment on leaked documents which assert government and corporate misconduct. However, Wikileaks claims that its “primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations”.

Having said that, Wikileaks has become more popular recently due to its recent revelations about America. A lot of diplomatic communication America makes with its allies has been exposed. This has been extremely damaging to America’s reputation because of the supposed human rights abuses it has committed and its accusations against the British royal family. This is a threat to diplomatic relations between US and its allies and also is very damaging. In her response to the leaks, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said she “deeply regrets” the leaks and says that it is an attack on not just the United States but the international community.

It must be acknowledged that Wikileaks has made some revelations that have been very beneficial. Some of them include the case of the British National Party membership list, the report on toxic dumping in Africa, and Sarah Palin email records. In the British National Party membership list issue, some police officers were dismissed for political association. However, a lot of questions need to be asked about the activities of this organisation.

My first issue with Wikileaks is the manner in which it gets information. All you need do to provide information for Wikileaks, is to go on its website and submit it. With this system, people who are working for strategic institutions, for example, military intelligence that are disloyal can easily send secret information to the public and more importantly to the enemy. The activities of Wikileaks could also amount to a breach of the Official Secrets Act because there have been cases where people who originally had access to official files leaking it to Wikileaks. It has also been established that information available on the Wikileaks website has been obtained through hacking.

Secondly, Wikileaks is a threat to diplomatic communications between countries. Officials of governments need to have the confidence that they can communicate privately, especially on delicate matters that involve national security, without the fear of a scandal. Obviously, while Wikileaks is trying to expose condemnable acts of government, sometimes it ends up sabotaging the efforts of government. Due to this Pete King, a US Congressman has asked for Wikileaks to be listed as a terrorist group. American authorities are already investigating the possibility of prosecuting Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks under the Espionage Act. American authorities have also warned that the leaked information could endanger the lives of US troops and their allies.

Also, should the media spread information gained from Wikileaks? David Cameron disapproved of the Guardian for publishing Wikileaks documents, but I do not see any reason why the media should not spread information that is already available to the public via the internet. The media does not have the responsibility to save the government from embarrassment.

While I would state that the activities of Wikileaks, is not condemnable in its entirety, there must be a limit to what and how they expose considering the effects it could cause. Though there is freedom of information, care should be taken to ensure that it is not abused. I also think that it is very important that atrocities committed by government should be exposed. However, I do not support when it is done without discretion. The overall interest should be international peace and security and crime should not be a way of informing the public. While I support the activities of Wikileaks, I think that it should not cause more harm than good.

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