27 July 2010
This is from several open Wikileaks mail lists for the media, volunteers,
contributors and recruits.
Wikileaks: Fear in the Western Fourth Estate
November 24, 2008
Wikileaks often receives messages from Western journalists expressing
substantial levels of fear.
For instance, many Western news organizations, even when reporting
a document, self-censor links to it (but not other links).
Self-censoring organizations include Time/CNN, the News Statesman,
and the Guardian. The "4.0" estate is no better, the Wikimedia
Foundation, Digg and others have all pulled links after, or
before, legal threats.
Journalists working in the most of the developing world, who are
occasionally arrested for hard-hitting stories, find this pusillanimous
States with highly disconnected power hierarchies, such as Russia
during the mid 1990s give us a clue to as to the difference in
perceptions between developing and Western journalists.
In transitional states, journalistic freedom and journalistic
persecution appear to stem from the same root cause; the inability
of power groups to defend themselves from journalists by using means
more sophisticated than arrest or murder. Because the latter comes
at some cost to the persecutor they are rarely employed. In other
words all but a few "off limit" subjects can be reported freely and
these limits are not yet well understood, which is why some journalists
In the West, more sophisticated means are systemic and include
economic and patronage incentives and a defensive restructuring of
power group activities into complex financial webs which are resistant
to press exposure.
While it is easy to count journalistic arrests and murders, great
skepticism should be exercised in representing the lack of such
assaults as marker of a free or effective press. Precisely the
opposite conclusion may be true.
An example letter from a Western journalist:
> While I do not see everything which you send me of value, I do see much
of what I've been sent as extremely significant material. I regret
to add that
I have not opened much of what you have sent me, concern over potential
'legal ramifications' being the reason. In short, I - like too many
other journalists -
have too often been effectively intimidated into silence.
> In the past I've endured death threats, being shot at, having the steering
unscrewed on my car, etc...and yet, I find myself compelled to avoid
with a 'controversial' legal standing, regardless of the legitimacy of those
While I still break quite significant news, I artificially limit myself to
which cannot engender 'legal issues'.
> Am I a coward? I think not, but I am well aware of the tools employed
those with the courage to speak, and I cautiously avoid presenting 'the bad
a 'weak point' in the defenses I've built. I am not certain how Wikileaks
the devastation such 'weak points' have brought, but I am glad you have.
> Does the world need the ugly truths that lurk behind the sparklingly
clean and gleaming
white facades that so often surround them - yes! Without broad public
awareness of the
harsh realities we face, how can we, as a society, hope to address these
issues? Of course,
those whom the ongoing ignorance benefits wish to maintain it, and so the
organizations such as yours.
> What can be done to improve Wikileaks? I imagine that you're working
on a great many
things; but, perhaps paramount among these is the ongoing establishment of
of Wikileaks as a source, a source which can one day be utilized without
concern over 'the consequences'.
> When I was a boy growing up in The States, there was a TV game show
called 'Truth or
Consequences'. Too often today I have seen a reality called 'truth
The first was funny, but the second...
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