How The Press Misleads About Wikileaks
from the journalism-at-work dept
As Julian Assange’s lawyers fully expect him to get charged in the US under the Espionage Act, it’s interesting (and a bit distressing) to see how some in the press — who should be his biggest supporters — are acting. Glenn Greenwald highlighted how a Time Magazine report on the potential US legal case against Assange misstated a variety of facts — including the idea that Wikileaks itself had published “thousands” of classified State Department cables and that it had done so “indiscriminately.” As Greenwald points out Wikileaks itself has only published a little over 1,000 of the cables, and nearly all of them are the ones that the press has already posted/vetted/reported on.
This is a part of the story that isn’t getting much coverage. While most of the news reports have said that Wikileaks published over 250,000 such cables, that’s not exactly true. It has over 250,000 such cables and appears to have passed them on to its media partners, but it’s slowly releasing specific cables — with redactions — and mostly after the press partners are releasing those same cables. In other words, it appears that Wikileaks is actually being judicious and discriminating in what it’s releasing. Or, you could say (and probably should say) that Wikileaks is actually doing much of what a journalist would do in selecting which documents to pass along at this time.
But by trying to claim that Wikileaks is “just” a data dump, it’s an effort to make Wikileaks look like it’s not a journalistic or media entity — thereby affording it fewer First Amendment rights. But, it appears that some in the press, such as Time, are being quite misleading in doing so. After Greenwald called them on it, Time issued a “correction,” but it’s a “correction that’s not a correction” in that they basically say that Assange and some others disagree with some of Time’s claims. But it makes no attempt to fix the factually incorrect statements.
Of course, this may come back to the view that many have: that certain elements in the press are upset about Wikileaks because it shows what a crappy job they’ve been doing on their own. If we had a functioning press that actually sought to hold the US government accountable, there would be much less of a need for Wikileaks. Instead, we have a press that focuses on keeping “access” to those in power, and that means not digging too deep at times.