WikiLeaks' information

This is exactly the same as what I wanted to say.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 9
EDITORIAL: WikiLeaks' information

WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to disclosing secret information about governments and corporations, has been releasing U.S. diplomatic cables.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the founder and editor in chief of WikiLeaks, has been arrested by British police on suspicion of sex offenses in Sweden amid growing hostility from the governments of many countries.

Whether his arrest is appropriate or not can only be determined by the results of the authorities' investigation.

But the evaluation of WikiLeaks' disclosure activities should be separated from the charges against Assange and made from the viewpoint of whether the information it publishes ultimately serves the interests of citizens. In other words, is the information important for the public interest?

In April this year, WikiLeaks received international attention by posting video footage of a 2007 incident in Iraq in which U.S. military helicopter crew mistakenly shot and killed civilians, including reporters for the Reuters news agency.

The website then exposed other disturbing facts about the Iraq war, including that civilians account for 66,000 of the 109,000 casualties of the conflict.

All these revelations have cast fresh light on the harrowing realities of the war the U.S. government has been concealing. As a member of the journalistic community, we applaud WikiLeaks for these achievements.

The publication of a cache of a quarter million confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that started late last month has revealed views and concerns about the future of the Korean Peninsula secretly held by countries and exposed North Korea's exports of ballistic missiles.

The Western newspapers and magazines that received in advance the diplomatic documents, including the Guardian of Britain and Le Monde of France, published reports on the material after independently assessing the content and credibility of the documents.

It can be said that so far this cooperation between the online site and news media has struck readers as an effort to serve the public interest and played a positive role in disseminating information that helps serve democracy.

There is no denying that the publication will make it harder for officials of many countries to carry out their missions and gather information in their traditional ways.

There are also concerns that the disclosure of sensitive information not meant for publication could provoke strong reactions from the public of a nation, making it difficult for the country to take reasonable diplomatic actions.

Making the important truths about international relations known to the public, however, is crucial for democracy, which means citizens determine the stance and course of their country.

History is littered with examples of politically powerful people and institutions concealing inconvenient facts under the pretext of national interests. Just remember how hard the governments concerned tried to protect secrets about the Vietnam War and talks between Japan and the United States over the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.

On the other hand, it creates serious risks to publish on the Internet huge amounts of classified documents containing national secrets.

Negotiations for the settlement of a conflict could collapse if the secret aims and thoughts of the countries involved are disclosed during the process. Information sources and cooperators may fall into danger.

WikiLeaks has also published a list of facilities around the world regarded by the U.S. government as critically important for national security. But such information could be used by terrorists deciding what targets to attack.

Material related to private-sector organizations and activities could violate the privacy of the people involved.

When something illegal is going on in secret, there can be ways to expose it through a narrowly focused publication of related information to avoid collateral damage.

Both the whistle-blowers and news media should always carefully guard against the danger that exposing secrets could deviate from the cause of information disclosure for the public interest.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-12-13 07:37 | 英字新聞

<< 平和賞と中国―君子の外交を求めたい あかつき―失敗を次の探査に生かせ >>