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This study evaluates an article by Chris Berg, which was published in a website titled, the Age. The article was titled, the Weight of the World. The article speaks against negative criticisms leveled against Wiki leaks and its founder Julian Assange (Berg 2010).
The publication therefore advanced the fact that, wiki leaks was only upholding the freedom of the press in its publication of diplomatic cables about the US, and subjecting its founder to negative criticism, or trying to muzzle its activities, was nothing but an effort to muzzle the press. The core issue tackled in the publication therefore revolved around press freedom and the efforts, particularly advanced by the US congress, to muzzle it.
The article further went ahead to stipulate the role of the press in the society, and in doing so, it categorically stated that, the press does not hold any responsibility to any government, to smoothen their diplomatic activities, or soften their relations with the world’s foreign leaders.
Comparison was made of past efforts to muzzle the press and what is currently happening with wiki leaks. In this analysis, there was a clear effort made to associate the freezing of wiki leak’s activities with past efforts of governments trying to muzzle the media (Berg 2010). Moreover, the power of the US congress is identified to have the leading responsibility in trying to gag the media because of its immense legislative power.
Generally, I concur with the main theme of the article, which is to show that, freedom of the press ought to be upheld at all times, and the freezing of wiki leaks is nothing short of gagging the media. In this regard, this study’s evaluation of the publication is positive and in subsequent subsections of this article, I will clearly demonstrate why.
Julian Assange and his wiki leaks website represent the freedom to communicate and express oneself through media publications. His actions therefore truly define the freedom of the press because there is no clause in the freedom of press law that limits the publication of information such as diplomatic cables.
Furthermore, wiki leaks activities are firmly entrenched in the bill of rights that touches on its activities because it states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers” (Cornwell 2004, p. 21).
The activities of wiki leaks therefore perfectly fit the privileges and rights of the press that are defined by the freedom of press clause and the universal bill of rights. Moreover, in order for the press to be truly perceived as free, it ought to be free from the interference of the state (Cornwell 2004, p. 21).
Contrary to this view, the US congress seems to be interfering with the activities of wiki leaks by leveling charges against the organization and its founder. Moreover, its actions against wiki leak’s sponsors such as Amazon, MasterCard, PayPal and such like organizations, clearly amount to a breach of the freedom of the press because this is some form of state interference in the activities of the press.
Furthermore, the motivation of the US government in interfering with the activities of wiki leaks stems from the international embarrassment it got as a result of the diplomatic leaks (Berg 2010, p, 16). Particularly, the US government felt more embarrassed that, it is diplomatic communication was not secure and that, third parties could access its internal communication systems.
The potential threat of the diplomatic leaks soiling the relationship it had with its foreign partners was also a primary motivator for the US government to muzzle the activities of wiki leaks by exercising its political muscle over companies which support the organization. From this analysis, we therefore see that, the muzzling of wiki leak’s activities was motivated by selfish reasons, on the part of the US government.
Though some people may argue that, governments normally have a right to determine what kind of information is to be leaked to the public, under the rights and privileges of state security, defined under the freedom of press clauses, there is enough evidence to suggest that wiki leaks made an effort to engage the US state department to edit the kind of information that was going to be leaked to the public.
However, when the US government failed to oblige, it had to edit the information by itself and release it to the media. In support of this fact, Berg (2010) states that, “Wiki Leaks even asked the US State Department to help editing unnecessarily risky documents, a practice common when the press deals with classified material. The State Department refused” (p. 9). From this analysis therefore, there is no reason to subject wiki leaks to a complete shutdown because of its professional conduct.
From the above subsection of this study, we see that, the attack on wiki leaks activities amounts to a breach of the freedom of the press because the actions of the US congress amounts to state intervention, which is clearly stated as a breach of the freedom of press (Berg 2010, p. 2).
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Moreover, wiki leaks demonstrated a lot of professionalism when dealing with state, or classified information, by seeking the input of the US government before it published the diplomatic information. Only when the US government refused to collaborate, did wiki leaks publish the information.
Criticisms leveled against the wiki leaks founder are also to be regarded as a contravention of human rights, which guarantee the right of speech, opinion and expression, since the actions of congress were aimed at muzzling the organization’s freedom to express itself, but most importantly, curtailing the access of information to the public.
Moreover, the motivations of the US government in interfering with wiki leak’s activities are questionable because they seem rather, selfish and motivated by pride. This can be seen from the fact that the US government only got embarrassed from wiki leak’s diplomatic leaks and never did the damage seem to threaten the security of the US government in protecting its citizens (Berg 2010).
Its reasons for criticizing wiki leaks are therefore motivated by its efforts to save its image on the international platform, but most importantly, its actions are fueled by its political muscle in curtailing the activities of wiki leaks by threatening its sponsors through legislative might.
From this analysis, we therefore see that, the US state intervention is a clear breach of the freedom of the press and a breach against human rights, which guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression. However, the only argument against an exercise of this freedom is the release of classified information that wiki leaks specialized in.
Nevertheless, we can see that, wiki leaks demonstrated utmost professionalism when dealing with the classified information by seeking the input of the US government before realizing the diplomatic cables. From this analysis therefore, it is safe to suggest that, wiki leaks acted in the most professional way possible and the criticism of the US government on the organization’s activities are unfounded and irrational, but most importantly, they have no legal backing.
From the prevailing factors affecting the US’s actions against wiki leaks, we can see that, the US’s actions against wiki leaks were motivated by pride and might. In other words, there is no concrete legal backing for the actions of the US government in trying to freeze the activities of wiki leaks and its founder.
Legally, it is clear that, wiki leaks followed all laid down provisions governing its professional conduct. Obviously, its professionalism stems from its efforts to seek the input of the US government before the publication of the diplomatic cables.
The fact that, wiki leaks was leaking classified information to the general public would have been the greatest weakness of this argument because the media is required to seek the intervention of state authorities before leaking classified information to the public, because of the security interests associated with such information.
Since wiki leaks observed this provision, this weakness fails to dilute the argument that, the action to curtail the activities of wiki leaks amounts to curtailing the freedom of the press. From this analysis therefore, we see that, state interference in the wiki leaks saga was unwarranted, and it amounted to a breach of the freedom of the press. This argument is therefore a positive evaluation of Berg’s publication that reiterates the same argument.
Berg, C. (2010) The Weight Of The Word. (Online) Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/the-weight-of-the-word-20101211-18tdr.html .
Cornwell, N. (2004) Freedom of the Press: Rights and Liberties under the Law. New York, ABC-CLIO.