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@WAN_Medialex coverage of Web Summit: the floor to Wikileaks

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@WAN_Medialex coverage of Web Summit: the floor to Wikileaks

The session in which Branco was speaking was titled "Should the internet be a safe place?". Branco's position was that for Wikileaks safety means for individuals to be able to exercise their freedom of expression without censorship from political and economic powers. He added that following the publication of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Wikileaks suffered censorship in the form of the interruption of Assange’s internet access by the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been residing since 2012. The move was caused by the "major impact" that the leaks were allegedly having on the US elections: Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry explained in a statement that "The government of Ecuador respects the principles of nonintervention in the affairs of other nations, does not meddle in electoral campaigns nor support any candidate in particular."
 
Branco lamented the "unfair" difference in treatment that Wikileaks is suffering from compared to traditional media. He added that had the New York Times published the same scoops the paper would have been treated more fairly, without risks of being censored. He concluded that legacy newspapers enjoy greater protection from censorship than the online media – it is unclear if he implied that Wikileaks is indeed part of that category.  
 
Newspapers have largely covered the risks involved in Wikileaks's choice to not redact most of the documents they publish. Accusations about lack of responsible approach to the release of information were particularly severe last summer, when the whistleblower site published the medical records of hundreds of ordinary people, including rape victims and children. Sidestepping the criticism, the website responded by saying that governments already had knowledge of the leaked information. 
 
On stage Branco said that Wikileaks is more independent from power than traditional media, so in an interview we asked him to expand on this claim. 
 
He defined Wikileaks's work as journalism, and more precisely "scientific journalism": only stories whose primary source can be mentioned are published. The practice of traditional media of publishing stories from unnamed sources hides shady relations with powers, in Wikileaks's opinion. Branco explained that leaking partial information to newspapers is a widely used tool that allows the game of politics to deliver incomplete perspectives to the public, and that this only happens because of the shield that anonymity represents. He added that politics often exploits the threat of libel (sic), and more generally the asymmetry of power between state and media, to impose the publication of certain information. Wikileaks's practice of always publishing the primary source allegedly ensures the truth and independence of information.  
 
In the list of Wikileaks's grievancies against traditional media, the supposed lack of rectifications scores very high too. According to Branco, coverage of the website is imbalanced and unfavourable news are much more widely spread than rectifications.

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Elena Perotti's picture

Elena Perotti

Date

2016-11-17 14:15

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