There has been a great deal of controversy about the Wikileaks website’s decision to post thousands of leaked reports that include the names of Afghan civilians who have collaborated with the international military coalition in Afghanistan. The controversy has grown even more since Reporters Without Borders and other NGOs criticised a lack of responsibility on the part of Wikileaks.
As hate messages and unfair accusations proliferate in the online newspapers that reported this criticism, Reporters Without Borders would like to caution against any attempts to put words in its mouth.
We reaffirm our support for Wikileaks, its work and its founding principles. It is thanks in large part to Wikileaks that the world has seen the failures of the wars waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also thanks to Wikileaks that we have seen how the US army deliberately targeted a Reuters crew in Baghdad in July 2007. The video of this tragedy has been posted on our website ever since it was leaked.
The controversy has resulted in a real threat to the website of closure in the United States and targeted persecution of its contributors. The US authorities would be very mistaken if they tried to use our criticism as support for a decision to silence Wikileaks. The Obama administration made a serious mistake when it broke its promise to reveal the human, moral and financial cost of the “war against terror” launched by President George W. Bush. Wikileaks has rightly defied this blockade on access to information.
Raising the question, as we did, of the danger of releasing certain sensitive data does not in any way constitute incitement to censorship or, less still, support for the war. Should we be blamed for pointing out that the information provided by Wikileaks could be used by the Taliban and could serve as grounds for reprisals? Is it contrary to a humanitarian organisation’s vocation to draw attention to the possible impact on human lives of high-risk information? Is it wrong to point out that Wikileaks’ recent actions could backfire not only on itself but also on the independent researchers and journalists who cover these subjects online?
A media is responsible for what it publishes or disseminates. To remind it of that is not to wish its disappearance. Quite the contrary. Editorial responsibility, liked freedom of expression, to which it is linked, cannot be reduced to mere partisan or ideological interests. To accuse Wikileaks’ critics of being “Pentagon accomplices” distorts and pre-empts any discussion about the work of the media and media ethics. The principle of free expression is indivisible, as is the careful observation of the media that it requires.