Jul 10

Julian Assange and the Wikileaks agenda

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange came to the Centre for Investigative Journalism weekend school at City University last Friday to speak to a public audience. Assange is clearly making many more of these appearances in what might be called the Phase Two of the Wikileaks story.

Julian Assange

In Phase One, Assange barely gave any interviews at all and was secretive about himself and his organisation. Phase Two began when Wikileaks had put more than a million documents into the public domain which organisations and governments had never intended to release and when the US government arrested one of Wikileaks alleged leakers in the American military. (Earlier posts on this here and here; whole Wikileaks story here). That phase has seen Assange come out his shell and switch from defence to attack.

Here’s a summary of what he said in opening. Wikileaks has focussed from the start, he said, on revealing documents which will have the largest effect when disclosed. Borrowing the language of economists, documents kept secret create value by defining what will have impact when revealed.

But from the start, Wikileaks saw itself in quite a different perspective from mainstream media, or from all other news media. Assange intended, he said, to set up a “real free press” for the first time – in the sense that sensitive revelations at that scale which could not be shut down have never been done before. Wikileaks invested effort, time and money from the start in setting up servers which cannot be interrupted or attacked. He also saw Wikileaks as an “advocacy group for sources.”

He indirectly justified Wikileaks refusal to discuss its personnel, operations or security methods by saying that he has a “duty” to maintain “institutional integrity”. He went further: he has “a duty to history.”

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