Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wikileaks editorial: UK papers should have bugged more

The real scandal is not that some British papers used private investigators to find out what the public wants to know. It is that more did not. It is that the News' was extorted out of a million pounds because the relevant British legislation does not have an accessible public interest defense for the disclosure of telephone recordings. Until it does, despite the risks, journalists who take their fourth estate role seriously are obligated not to take the legislation seriously.

Journalism is a serious business. It starts wars and it topples kings. It does not care that Rupert Murdoch hired someone, who hired someone, who hired someone, who allegedly off their own bat, creatively went about their job of exposing Britain's pretenders by pressing 1234 into their voice mail.

The actions of major newspapers are "voted on" every day by their readers. Whatever their faults, popular newspapers remain the most visible and the most democratically accountable institutions in the country. Their mandate to inform the public vastly exceeds that granted to the unelected and the rarely elected at Westminister, who are nonetheless quick to grant themselves a blanket exemption from all censorship.

By Julian Assange, co-founder of Wikileaks. Full editorial here.

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