An open letter published in the UK Guardian this week:
We are writing this statement in support of democracy.
Since Sunday, 28 November, WikiLeaks and five major newspapers from around the world (the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais) have been publishing redacted versions of leaked US diplomatic cables in an ongoing story that has become known as “Cablegate”. The identity of the original leaker is – as yet – unconfirmed.
This is not the first leak of confidential documentation that exposes governmental lies – and it won’t be the last. Secret information has long been used by elites to build and maintain power over huge populations of citizens, workers, armed forces and others. But when the secrets of the elite are revealed, the power they represent can be confronted and reversed.
Nor is this the first time that state (and other) forces of power have acted to prevent dissemination of information on the internet – and it won’t be the last.
Sites have been removed by their hosting companies, servers seized by police or other governmental authorities, take-down requests issued under the rule of law: none of these prevented information spreading.
But the issues run deeper than this. As former US president Thomas Jefferson once stated, “information is the currency of democracy”. Democracy – the rule of the people – as currently understood and practiced is, and has long been, severely restricted.
Power is abused in our name by governments and transnational corporations around the world: they fight illegal wars; abuse and kill people; pillage property and planet. The powerful accumulate wealth and force the majority – the rest of us – to pay for it: with our health, our freedom, our time, our money and with our lives. For a long time, we have been deceived about the reasons for this: it is our right for the truth to be known. Without that right, democracy cannot and does not exist. The current assault on WikiLeaks is yet another instance of democracy-hating by elites.
Now, we find we are witnessing a new level of info-struggle. We are witnessing how the emperor wears no clothes. We can see the lies made bare, we can see the posturing and propositioning that our governments participate in. We can see the collusion that occurs with transnational corporations and with global media giants. WikiLeaks and others are battling against powerful institutions bent on curtailing our knowledge of and influence over policies and structures that impact our lives: they are information heroes, not information villains. We see all this being done in our name, and we condemn it.
Thus, we pledge to not simply bear witness but to actively participate in this fight – for freedom of speech, for real democracy and for justice. We know this is only the beginning: de-masking the puppeteers facilitates action towards fairer and more just societies. We demand that the truth be heard. We stand at the doorway to a new, just and democratic world: a doorway we pledge to keep open and to march through. We stand with all the inhabitants of this world who are affected daily by governments that oppress the right to free speech and obstruct the path to true democracy.
Daniel Kahn Gillmor
Donnacha Delong, vice-president, National Union of Journalists
Yvonne Ridley, founder, Women In Journalism
Mike Holderness, freelance journalist
Pennie Quinton, freelance journalist and human rights campaigner
May First/People Link
David Graeber, reader in social anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Koumbit Worker’s Committee
Sasha Costanza-Chock, fellow, Berkman Centre for Internet & Society, Harvard University