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WikiLeaks’ defeat would be ‘chilling message’

Nov 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

wikileaksMAINTHE end of WikiLeaks would send a chilling message through the media, according to one of New Zealand’s leading investigative journalists.

A serious fight is going on about the legitimacy of the news media to uncover information governments prefer to keep secret, says freelance writer Nicky Hager.

Since the latest leak of government cables, the whistleblowing website has come under intense scrutiny and pressure to close down.

HAGERMr Hager (left), Sunday Star-Times contributor and author of The Hollow Men, says: “If WikiLeaks were closed down, it would be a terrible precedent and send a chilling message through the media.”

WikiLeaks’ release last month of United States diplomatic cable prompted the US government to force the site’s web host to shut it down.

The International Federation of Journalists says closure of the site (now relocated) was an attack on free speech by the US government.

Mr Hager says WikiLeaks provides a great public service for journalism and the public by helping to gather and publish leaked materials.

The work of the website is exactly the same as what he and journalists do in New Zealand, but on a global scale and that is made available to journalists, he says.

Media organisations don’t put enough resources into finding hidden sources and getting behind government spin and that is why organisations like WikiLeaks are important, says Mr Hager.

“There is nothing like getting first-hand documents like these.”

WikiLeaks’ critics say some of the information released puts lives at risk.

Mr Hager says this is unsubstantiated propaganda from governments that prefer to keep their secrets from the public.

“Not a single credible example of real risk has been presented and if it existed, we can be sure it would be.”

Although most of the leaks have not concerned New Zealand, Mr Hager says what happens anywhere in the world should matter to New Zealanders.

“We are at war in Afghanistan, have family links with countries… we trade with countries, [we] accept refugees.”

Veteran John Pilger is another investigative journalist voicing support for WikiLeaks and its  founder, Julian Assange, now in custody in London facing sex charges.

ASSANGE

Mr Pilger told the City of Westminster Magistrates Court he had a very high regard for Mr Assange as a journalist and personal friend.

“Charges against him in Sweden are absurd and were judged as absurd by the chief prosecutor there when she threw the whole thing out – until a senior political figure intervened,” Mr Pilger is reported as saying.

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Assange (right) said his website deserves protection and governments around the world must not “shoot the messenger”.

“Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest.

“The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.”

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