Wikileaks, Manning, The Guardian and a case of journalistic ethics

The case of Bradley Manning and his alleged crimes of treason to the US government has put the spotlight on several ethical factors surrounding journalism.

No person who has witnessed the collateral murder footage could deny that this leak has been incredibly pro-justice, allowing the world to see criminal acts which have endangered the lives of Americans and American sympathisers.  Any rumour of what was done adds to further accountability of US Intel Ops which have historically shown disregard of human rights and made the argument of war crimes more concrete.  Hiding this footage does nothing for a pro-democracy argument.  The leaked footage is pro-justice for it presents us with the facts and allows accountability to be placed on those responsible.  However, should a reluctant regime avoid following through on the implications of such evidence and push for, say, treason against the source, we would be left with further reason to watch for retaliation against American interests.

Army officer Bradley Manning – and his imminent sentencing of treason (punishable by military law) – is to be the fall guy.  I challenge editorial powers at the Guardian to justify its stance on Bradley Manning: which has worked out to be anti free-speech, anti-democratic and does nothing but solidifies his incarceration and possible execution for treason.

As we can see Wikileaks has clearly pointed out Manning was not indicated as the source of the leaks – in fact, there are hundreds of possible leak suspects.  In the event of Bradley Manning being the one responsible for the dump of military information, surely we are at a moral crossroads.  Yes, by law the leaker is obliged to fall under treason laws.  I ask you, with regard to treason.  Is it or is it not a law that was created by powerful governments to subdue rival governments and mutiny from its own citizens?  Adding to this, are we not under moral responsibility to help a human who has shown great altruism and risk in providing the truth behind military occupation and accountability?

Some research into journalism and ethics shows that there are good reasons journalists should keep sources secret.  We can come to some understanding with “Chatham house rules”, “Lobby Terms”, “Not for attribution”, “On background”, “Deep background”, “On-the-record”, “Unattributable” and “Off-the-record” terms.  These were created to safeguard the law, justice and the integrity of the journalistic trade.   At the very least, the Guardian has shown disregard for the safety of a source of information – not necessarily the source of the leak – but a party that was in contact with Wikileaks.

As Wikileaks itself points out, this is not new territory for the Guardian.  In 1983, Sarah Tisdall was found guilty of treason by the UK government for leaking classified documents to the Guardian.  The Guardian could be forgiven for this betrayal in the context of this time in history – the cold war was still raging and court matters had meant the Guardian had fought its rights to anonymity of its sources but had failed.  There was an attempt to keep sources secret – not so in the case of Manning.

An article written about the source of stolen military cables, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger  reveals Manning as the no.1 source.  This statement has serious implications should legal proceedings take information from these sources at the Guardian.

While the ‘law’ (a hot topic here at TTH) allows certain ‘freedoms’ this doesn’t extend to the accountability of news organisations freedom to influence legal proceedings of individuals to imprisonment.  Here the law is simply black and white.  Since the cables were ‘stolen’, the leaker is a thief.  However, redefining the term ‘stolen’, we can see how there is a real matter of injustice occurring here.  Stealing means ‘to permanently deprive someone of property’.  What is the value of secret information and in depriving the public of its knowledge, whose interest does it serve?

Nationalists, conservatives, those that give their faith to a system will no doubt react with a counter argument for why a ‘traitor’ must pay the penalty for compromising the security of an apparent system.  This doesn’t offer any flexibility for why someone would feel the need to distribute this secret information to the public in the first place.  Again, (but on the contrary) generously offering the public of this knowledge, whose interest does this serve?

Only a deeply paranoid mind would assume this action is treason – or to use this term and have good reason to prevent this information coming to light.

I don’t know who distributed this information – but I would be very careful of pinning the blame on any one person.  The Guardian seem to be pretty convinced they have all the information they need to (potentially) send someone to their death for what amounts to little more than a ‘scoop’ (and one can assume some generous help in Washington).  I agree with Wikileaks that this is gutter journalism and the immediate boycott of Guardian publications should take place until such a time as those responsible retract their statements and allow press to conduct themselves without being judge, jury and executioner.

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About tthurts

Rattling the cage...
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