What Makes Wikileaks A Legal Form Of Publishing? How Has It Revolutionalised Journalism & Publishing? How Can We Classify Wikileaks As a “Super Archive”?
“[Wikileaks] could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.” – Time Magazine
For the past few years, Wikileaks has been on everybodys lips. Stories have been reported about both the practices and process involved in “leaking” information via Wikileaks, as well as stories that have stemmed and formed issues from various cables and leaks published via Wikileaks. When we look at the change transition from print to digital in the world of publishing, Wikileaks becomes a significant tool and form of new-media that is very much worth examining.
For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to try my best to look at Wikileaks objectively (at least I hope I can) and solely as a publishing tool. A lot of people have probably never looked at the Wikileaks site, and only know about it through what the media disseminates. So what I’m going to do really briefly and succinctly is look at what makes Wikileaks legal, how has it changed publishing, and how is the information archived.
“WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists. We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices” – (Wikileaks)
Wikileaks essentially publishes information that isn’t readily available to the general public. What they publish include articles written by the organisation’s journalists, embassy cables, and also warlogs, in particular the Iraq and Afghan War Diaries, along with military videos. This content that is published are generally referred to as “leaks”, because they have leaked the information in the first instance, and they are the first publisher to release that information. It’s not like Wikipedia that is built on open-access publishing, there are several methods for giving information to the journalists, and it’s worth a look at on the site.
So the legality of Wikileaks, or at least what allows Wikileaks to argue their legality, is based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, In particular, Article 19 stating that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. (Wikleaks) This is basically Freedom of Information.
But another important aspect making Wikileaks legal are “Shield Laws”. Wikileaks’ base is in Sweden, a country which has probably the world’s best shield laws that protect confidential source-journalist relationships, which is a plus for journalists and ethical journalistic practices. (Woolner 2010, Wikipedia) Also, there is the argument that since Wikileaks is a publisher, it should have protection regarding freedom of the press. (Ingram 2010) In the “About” section of Wikileaks, they state that “Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people”. On of the role’s of the media as the 4th estate is to inform the public and ignite debate, and that is bascially what Wikileaks does.
Now in terms of it’s archiving system, Wikileaks is a “super archive”. Just a heads up before looking at the following mind map, Wikileaks has both links to the archives themselves from the Main Page, as well as a new Super Archive with everything every published, yet those that are not articles are mainly available to download in torrent form. You can browse through each archive through categories, types, dates of creation, countries, etc.
- Wikipedia 2011, Wikileaks – ‘Legal Status’, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks#Legal_status, accessed 8 April 2011
- ‘Archives 2006-2010 – Main Page’, http://www.wikileaks.ch/wiki/Main_Page, accessed 8 April 2011
- ‘Secret US Embassy Cables’, http://184.108.40.206/cablegate.html, accessed 8 April 2011
- ‘About’, http://220.127.116.11/About.html, accessed 6 April 2011
- Ingram, M 2010, ‘Like It Or Not, Wikileaks Is A Media Entity’, http://gigaom.com/2010/12/04/like-it-or-not-wikileaks-is-a-media-entity/, accessed 8 April 2011
- Woolner, A 2010, ‘Wikileaks Secret Records Dump Stays In Legal Clear‘, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-28/wikileaks-secret-records-dump-stays-in-legal-clear-ann-woolner.html, accessed 7 April 2011, http://18.104.22.168/, accessed 8 April 2011