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NYT: What would Daniel Ellsberg have done with Pentagon Papers if Wikileaks had existed?

April 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

Now that it is relatively simple for anyone in possession of leaked documents to publish them directly to the internet, is there any reason to pass them on to a national newspaper?

With the viral advantages of internet publishing and social networking, can dedicated sites such as Wikileaks – which made a huge impact two weeks ago with the release of a classified military video showing the killing of civilians in Baghdad by a United States Apache Gunship – replace mainstream news organisations as the place to take leaked information?

Noam Cohen of the New York Times casts an eye back at the case of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and asks how it might unravel differently today.

[I]f someone today had the Pentagon Papers, or the modern equivalent, would he still go to the press, as Daniel Ellsberg did nearly 40 years ago and wait for the documents to be analysed and published? Or would that person simply post them online immediately?

Full story at this link…

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Leaked US military video boosts donations to Wikileaks

April 8th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Whistleblowing website Wikileaks has received more than £150,000 in donations since Monday, when it published a leaked US military video of the killing of 12 civilians – including two Reuters staff – in Iraq in 2007. According to the Wikileaks site, the project requires $600,000 a year to run.

The video has been hailed as a turning point for the controversial site (see this Wired article from 2009), which uses a network of volunteers to release information and promises full confidentiality for its sources.

As the Editors Weblog summarises:

Many news outlets might find themselves in a love-hate relationship with the news outlet. Wikileaks is situated at an important spot within the news industry as the only place willing to publish stories others can’t or wont. The website can function as a voice capable of breaking high profile scandals news outlets don’t want to break.

While Wikileaks acts as an important watchdog against corruption, the sometimes-paranoid tone of the site might undermine the website’s value while making it a target for criticism. To an extent, Wikileaks has every right to indulge in their paranoia. Several democratic governments around the world, all of whom have laws protecting free speech, have passed or discussed creating new laws which block the public’s access to the website. Just last night, the UK passed the digital economy bill, which contains a clause that could be used to justify blocking Wikileaks. The site is also blacklisted in Denmark and Australia.

Democracy Now is claiming videos it has obtained feature eyewitness accounts of the 2007 attack from the day after event; while international media organisations have called for a fresh investigation of the incident by the US military.

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CNN: Wikileaks editor on why it posted video of Reuters journalists’ deaths

Julian Assange explains the process involved in receiving and breaking the encryption on the US military video published by the site earlier this week, which shows the slaying of 12 people including two Reuters journalists in an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007.

Any assertion that Wikileaks selectively edited the video is “an outrageous straw man”, says Assange.

“We have a mission to promote political reforms by releasing suppressed information,” he explains, when asked about Wikileak’s mission.

This is a special circumstance for us, because this is not what we normally report. This is an attack on our own, this is an attack on journalists in a difficult situation trying to report the truth and we have a responsibility to our sources who give us this sort of material to get it out there. In fact, our promise to them is that if they give us this type of material that is of significance and has been suppressed we will release it and try to get the maximum political impact for it.

Video available at this link…

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Wikileaks releases video showing Apache shooting of Reuters news staff

Wikileaks today released a video depicting the slaying of more than 12 people – including two Reuters news staff – by two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire.

The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded.

Among the dead, were two Reuters news employees, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Chmagh was a 40-year-old Reuters driver and assistant; Noor-Eldeen was a 22-year-old war photographer.

An investigation by the US military concluded that the soldiers acted in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own rules of engagement.

Reuters has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act since the time of the attack.

More information can be found on the Collateral Murder website.

Warning: the following video contains highly disturbing imagery.

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Detainment of Reuters cameraman still unexplained – one year on

September 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Press freedom and ethics

Over a year has passed since Ibrahim Jassam, cameraman for global news agency Reuters, was arrested without charge by the US military and still no one, not Jassam, his family nor Reuters knows exactly what he has been imprisoned for.

Jassam, who was cleared for release last November by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), has only been told that the accusations have something to do with ‘activities with insurgents,’ a reference to the Sunni Islamist groups – one of which is Al Qaeda. Reuters states that Jassam is a Shi’ite Muslim.

Although cleared by the CCCI, a year on Jassam is still being detained by the US army, which under a special security agreement claims they are entitled to hold Jassam for as long as they need. The US military also claims that it is ‘not bound’ to provide evidence for Jassam’s detention and that the reason it has  kept him so long past his agreed release date is that he represents a ‘threat to Iraq security and stability’.

As also reported by the International Press Institute, David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters said the situation was ‘unacceptable’. “In a year of trying to get specifics, we’ve heard only vague and undefined accusations.”

Lt. Col. Pat Johnson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military in Iraq said: “Though we appreciate the decision of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in the Ibrahim Jassam case, their decision does not negate the intelligence information that currently lists him as a threat to Iraqi security and stability.”

The US Military claims that all high security threat detainees will go before an Iraqi judge in December 2009, where the evidence against Jassam will finally be aired.

Reuters and others argue that this treatment of a journalist within a war zone is exactly against the US’s advocacy of press freedom around the world, and see Jassam’s continued detention as going against the security pact, known as the Status of Forces Agreement, made between the US and Iraqi forces.

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Journalism Daily: Amish media, James Murdoch’s speech and the Bastiat online shortlist

September 1st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily

A daily round-up of all the content published on the Journalism.co.uk site. You can also sign up to our e-newsletter and subscribe to the feed for the Journalism Daily here.

News and features:

Ed’s picks:

Tip of the day:

#FollowJourn:

On the Editors’ Blog:

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StarsandStripes.com: US military terminates PR contract for background checks on journalists

Following its story that the US government is using a PR firm to run background checks on journalists sent on embedded assignments with the US military, Stars and Stripes now reports that the contract will be cancelled.

“The U.S. military is canceling its contract with a controversial private firm that was producing background profiles of journalists seeking to cover the war that graded their past work as ‘positive,’ ‘negative’ or ‘neutral,'” Stars and Stripes has learned.

Full story at this link…

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Stars and Stripes: US to screen journalists for ‘positive coverage’ before embedding

August 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Story from the beginning of this week – the US government is using a PR firm to run background checks on journalists sent on embedded assignments with the US military.

“Rendon examines individual reporters’ recent work and determines whether the coverage was ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’ compared to mission objectives, according to Rendon officials. It conducts similar analysis of general reporting trends about the war for the military and has been contracted for such work since 2005, according to the company,” reports Stars and Stripes.

Full story at this link…

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CPJ releases ‘Attacks on the Press in 2008′ report

February 11th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its ‘Attacks on the Press in 2008′ report yesterday and speaking in the preface, Carl Bernstein made two comments that neatly highlight the duplicitious nature of the web when it comes to press freedom:

“[T]he tension between technology and outright repression – the availability of satellite television, the use of the internet as impetus for growth and economic modernization – has rendered obsolete the old methods of press control and suppression of information such as media nationalization and overt censorship.

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“In China, which now has more than a quarter billion online users, self-censorship is enforced through government rules and regulations that guide Internet service providers about what news can be posted and who can post it (…) In every country following the Chinese model, internet access has been severely restricted or the plug pulled entirely during periods of potential social unrest.”

Last year CPJ’s imprisonment index noted that more online journalists were in jail than those working in any other media.

While the US’ ranking in terms of imprisoned journalists is low, the country’s actions have ‘a disproportionate impact’ on the rest of the world. With a new administration comes new hope for global press freedom, Bernstein adds.

“President Barack Obama must recognise that whenever the United States fails to uphold press freedom at home or on the battlefield, its actions ripple across the world. By scrupulously upholding press freedom at home, by ending the practice of open-ended detentions of journalists, and by investigating and learning from each instance in which the US military is responsible for the death of a journalist, Obama can send an unequivocal message about the country’s commitment to protecting press freedom. These policies might accelerate declines in the numbers of journalists killed and imprisoned. They will certainly make it much harder for governments worldwide to justify repressive policies by citing the actions of the United States.”

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