IFJ Condemns United States "Desperate and Dangerous" Backlash over WikiLeaks

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the

political backlash being mounted against the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks

and accused the United States of attacking free speech after it put pressure on

the website's host server to shut down the site yesterday.

The website's host Amazon.com blocked access to WikiLeaks after United

States officials condemned the torrent of revelations about political, business

and diplomatic affairs that has given people around the world unprecedented

access to detailed information from United States sources, much of it

embarrassing to leading public figures.

"It is unacceptable to try to deny people the right to know," said Aidan

White, IFJ General Secretary. "These revelations may be embarrassing in their

detail, but they also expose corruption and double-dealing in public life that

is worthy of public scrutiny. The response of the United States is desperate

and dangerous because it goes against fundamental principles of free speech and

democracy."

The IFJ has taken no position on the justification for the release of

hundreds of thousands of internal documents which have made headlines around

the world in the last few days, but it has welcomed the decision of WikiLeaks

to use respected channels of journalism including Der Spiegel, The Guardian,

the New York Times, Le Monde  and El Pais to filter the information.

"This information is being processed by serious, professional

journalists who are well aware of their responsibilities both to the public and

to people implicated in these revelations," said White. "It is simply untenable

to allege as some people have that lives are being put at risk here. The only

casualty here is the culture of secrecy that has for too long drawn a curtain

around the unsavory side of public life."

The IFJ is also concerned about the welfare and well-being of Julian Assange,

the WikiLeaks founder and Bradley Manning, the United States soldier in Iraq

who is under arrest and suspected of leaking the information. Both men are the

target of a growing political campaign mounted by government officials and

right-wing politicians.

Assange has been forced into hiding and is the subject of an

international police investigation over allegations concerning sexual offences

in Sweden. The IFJ says that calls by right wing commentators for Manning to be

executed and that Assange be hunted down as a spy, as demanded by former

Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, show a mood of intolerance

and persecution that is dangerous not just for the two men but for all

journalists engaged in investigating public affairs.

"The IFJ and its members support the rights of whistle-blowers and the

responsible reporting of information in the public interest," said White. "This

over-reaction by politicians and their allies illustrates that they have not

understood the historical significance of these events. The people's right to

know is not something that can any longer be willfully ignored. They have to

adjust to the fact journalists have a duty to report, fairly and accurately and

with due respect for the rights of all parties in the public interest."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22

07

The IFJ represents more than

600.000 members in 125 countries