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
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
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
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 members in 125 countries