Tag Archives: whistleblower

#cablegate: Is WikiLeaks a whistleblower?

“Whistleblower” – it’s a word that we have used ourselves here at Journalism.co.uk to define WikiLeaks, the site currently publishing batches of more than 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables and at the heart of debate over the rights and wrongs of doing so.

But when news organisations use this word to describe WikiLeaks, what, if anything, are they communicating about the body itself? This is a question raised in an interesting post on Yahoo’s The Cutline news blog, which reports that this issue has actually led to a series of news organisations asking their journalists not to use the word in their reports.

“We’ve had ‘whistleblower’ in some copy but have decided not to use it any longer,” AP spokesman Paul Colford told The Cutline. “Our description now reflects the site’s own name: a website that specializes in displaying leaked information.”

Colford didn’t say whether the AP considers “whistle-blower” to be inaccurate. He simply said that “we think we have a better, clearer description, and that’s what we’re using.”

NBC News spokeswoman Lauren Kapp also told The Cutline that the network was retiring “whistle-blower” in its WikiLeaks reports, even though it called WikiLeaks a “whistle-blower” on last Monday’s “Nightly News With Brian Williams.” Reuters, which has used “whistleblower” since the State Department leak, no longer uses it either. “Our style guidelines ask that reporters not describe WikiLeaks as a whistle-blower,” Reuters spokeswoman Erin Kurtz said.

So what’s the problem? The Cutline looks at the true definition of the term and the impact this could have on a reader/listener/viewer.

The term “whistle-blower” is usually used to describe someone within, say, a corporation or government agency who risks a career to speak out against corruption or fraud. It may just seem like a semantic issue, but how the media describe WikiLeaks can affect public perceptions. A whistle-blower is probably viewed positively, as an individual speaking out against wrongdoing.

Editors note: In hindsight, it makes sense that ‘whistleblower’ is not the most appropriate term for an organisation that is in fact a platform for whistleblowers. But then, “a website that specializes in displaying leaked information” is not exactly the most concise. I think ‘whistleblower’s website’ is a good compromise. Feel free to chime with suggestions though.

#cablegate: WikiLeaks appeals for support amid sustained cyber attacks

It’s more than a week after WikiLeaks began publishing secret US diplomatic cables but the organisation continues to occupy the headlines. Yesterday Reporters Without Borders claimed that the site had made an appeal for hosting help amid mounting cyber attacks, calling for support in creating mirror sites.

“WikiLeaks is currently under heavy attack,” the site said in a message posted yesterday. “In order to make it impossible to ever fully remove WikiLeaks from the Internet, we need your help. If you have a Unix-based server which is hosting a website on the internet and you want to give WikiLeaks some of your hosting resources, you can help!”

The appeal follows a decision by Amazon to stop hosting WikiLeaks’ site last week and EveryDNS.net to stop providing the organisation with its .org web address.

News also broke this week that the US is considering using US Espionage Act and other laws to prosecute WikiLeaks.

In a Reuters report, US Attorney General Eric Holder is said to have claimed that “there are other statutes, other tools at our disposal”.

The Espionage Act dates back to 1917 and was focused on making it illegal to obtain national defense information for the purpose of harming the United States. Holder described the law as “pretty old” and lawmakers are considering updating it in the wake of the leak.

Today WikiLeaks vowed, via its Twitter account, to continue to release more cables tonight despite the arrest of the whistleblower founder Julian Assange in London earlier today. According to a blog post on the Australian, Assange is also due to be writing exclusively for the paper tomorrow.

Imminent WikiLeaks Iraq cache ‘biggest leak ever’, report suggests

More classified military documents are to be released in the coming weeks by WikiLeaks, this time on the war in Iraq, according to national reports over the weekend, such as this one from the Associated Press.

News began to circulate on Friday that the whistleblowing site was planning another release following comments made by Bureau of Investigative Journalism editor Iain Overton in Newsweek, claiming the cache will be “biggest leak of military intelligence” so far.

In its article, Newsweek reports that the collection of Iraq documents held by WikiLeaks is believed to be about three times as large as the number of reports released in July on Afghanistan.

More than 92,000 documents were released to WikiLeaks’ media partners earlier this year relating to military operations in Afghanistan, around 76,000 of which have so far been published by the WikiLeaks online while the remaining 15,000 were held back to undergo ‘harm minimisation review’.

Martin Cloake: Further points about anonymity in the wake of NightJack

Pushing the NightJack discussion futher, journalist and writer Martin Cloake raises some tricky questions for online observers – or anyone who enjoys a good ethical debate. In a previous post, Cloake said that he broadly agreed with a comment on FleetStreetBlues –  ‘There is no automatic right of privacy in the street – and neither should there be on the information superhighway.’ Now he elaborates on this, and other points raised by the case: his unease with the Times’s main justification, the problems of the old vs new ‘vendetta’ theory, contradictions in the anonymity debate, why whistleblowers and journalistic sources are another matter entirely, and new boundary issues for the public/private spheres.

Read in full at this link.

Editor&Publisher: Whistleblower claims WSJ editors delayed Madoff investigation

“The key ‘whistleblower’ in the Bernard Madoff fraud case, Harry Markopolos, testified today [Feb 4 2009] before Congress, alleging among other things that he approached the Wall Street Journal on the story more than three years ago, and the newspaper ultimately did nothing,” Editor&Publisher reports.

Full story at this link…