“We in the West have deluded ourselves into believing that we actually have a truly free press. We don’t" - Julian Assange
In this age of information have we lost sight of what is really true? Are we letting our governments run rampant while we are force-fed information from biased media telling us how and what to think? How many of us question what we are told and if so how many of us have the guts to do anything about it? One website does; it is accredited for “releasing more classified documents than the rest of the world’s press combined,” and who's figurehead, Julian Assange, is said to be, “the James Bond of journalism;” as he infiltrates and exposes organizations. This site is none other than the infamous Wikileaks. By taking a closer look at how Wikileaks aims to increase corporate and government transparency, who is able to contribute to the content Wikileaks exposes, as well as why governments want to shut them down it will be clear that Wikileaks helps foster a global environment of free speech in a time when secrecy is all-pervasive.
Since its creation, Wikileaks has worked towards transparency in governments and corporations; opening up information to the public eye which normally would have been kept quiet behind the White House doors. In this era of secrecy Wikileaks could not be more crucial for citizens to begin to become aware of what is actually going on around the world. In the so-called democratic world, information is kept from the public for many (arguably unjustified) reasons and this cold-war mentality needs to end. The human right to free speech, that is, the right to seek, receive and impart information, must prevail and Wikileaks has been facilitating this right since its first launch in 2006.
"Knowledge is power" - Sir Francis Bacon
Wikileaks has been releasing controversial documents sent in by whistleblowers around the world. In April 2010 the website first became renowned when it released a video entitled Collateral Murder. This video shows an American Apache helicopter crew in Iraq killing civilians; this clip had previously not been released by order of the US Government. This raises the question, whose best interest is in mind when governments conceal its own actions? Certainly not that of its citizens. Of importance is also the simple fact that taxpayers fund the military and as such, have a right to know how their money is being spent. It is unlikely that without biased messaging the general public would approve of killing sprees. In August 2009 Wikileaks released financial secrets of the Kaupthing Bank in Iceland after the countries banking system collapsed. It uncovered how the bank had given out dangerously large loans - some reaching two billion dollars. The Kaupthing bank then put a gag order on the Icelandic press preventing them from running the story. This caused a public outcry, which then, with the help of Wikileaks lead to a modification of Icelandic law, making the country a haven for freedom of expression. This change from government secrecy to transparency is exactly what Wikileaks aims to achieve but this sort of activity has not put them in the good books of governments and corperations.
With the release of classified documents involving the U.S.A such as Collateral Murder, the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and cablegate America has begun to take Wikileaks seriously. More recently, governments hope to bring an end to the website that threatens their secrecy. Presidents and other world leaders have labeled Julian Assange a “cyber terrorist” and have claimed that Wikileaks is a threat to “national security.” Some have even called for Assange’s assassination as they claim Wikileaks has blood on its own hands for releasing the names of Iraqi informants, though there is no proof of this. America’s latest case in the battle against Wikileaks is prosecuting them for breaking the espionage act 1917. This document essentially states that the people behind Wikileaks released the information with the intent to harm America but because of the freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment 1791, the Government is having a hard time doing so. America aims to make an example of Wikileaks with the hope that others will be deterred from following suit.
"It is impossible to correct abuses unless we know that they’re going on"- Julian Assange
Wikileaks gives power to the unelected, giving the people a voice against the misconduct of corporations and governments. Wikileaks provides a drop box where individuals send information anonymously to the website, who then expose the wrongdoings by making it public on the World Wide Web. You no longer need a position of power to have access, or to share, information that is deemed confidential. Can this end up harming the individual? The story of Bradley Manning whom America has successfully set an example of is truly unjust. Manning was sent to prison after chartroom friend Adrian Lamo narked on him for sending classified information to Wikileaks. He now faces criminal charges and could end up spending 50 years in prison. How can an individual who let the truth out because he saw an abuse of power be treated like this? He should be a hero for not just turning a blind eye. What sort of message does this send to citizens of the world?
Wikileaks is an outstanding idea as it gives the public a say when there is misconduct in corporations and governments. The problem it that citizens are not used to having access to the information that Wikileaks provides and are essentially encouraged to be self-absorbed in their own lives, without acknowledging the rest of the world’s struggles. We need to realize that this information can make a difference, which may result in some actual positive change. Hopefully the sense of complacency will dissipate and citizens can become engaged, to the dismay of governments, democracy can flourish. Wikileaks has taken the first step, now it is up to the people of the world to take the next.