WikiLeaks has launched the WikiLeaks roundtable series, in which founder and editor Julian Assange addresses, in a short video, questions that people put to the organisation.
This forum aims to cut out “intermediaries” such as the mainstream corporate media, and instead allow the whistleblowing site to speak directly with people.
The first video was published on February 6.
“We are going to put everyone on a level playing field,” Assange said. “All members of the press and all members of the public.
“You will all be equal in your relationship with us. You will all be able to see each other's questions, and you will be able to see our responses.”
Assange said: “Throughout this series of roundtables, we will be responding to your questions from around the world.
“This is not just a press conference, this is a peoples’ conference. You can not only submit questions using the Twitter tag #WLquest, but you can also discuss the answers using #WLdiscuss.”
Assange said the organisation had chosen to launch the roundtable because:
“There is a reason that we are doing things this way, that we are trying to do things a new way.
“Over the last four years I have proposed that journalism needs to become more scientific, that we need to see all the original sources, wherever possible, for new stories that appear.
“So all the people, and other members of the press can see the truth behind a new story or its falsehood.
“But in our communications with you, we have often gone through intermediaries. Usually our full interview is not available.
“And that has led to some members of the press, who want to suck up to power, manipulating or distorting what we are really trying to say to you.”
The first question was from Matheus D. Pandolfo, aged 15, from Brasil, who asked: “In any moment of the human history, have we ever had a free media, that wasn’t (or is) dependent of business or private interests?”
Assange replied: “We’ve never had those moments, and that is why this is an historic time, as we see movements towards a freer press.
“Now we may never [have] a completely free press, but what we may have, is something even more valuable, the ability for people to communicate knowledge to each other safely.
“That is something different to a press. Rather it is something more innate and it concerns not just the right to speak but the right to know.”
Cynthia Germain Bazinet from the US asked: “How do you feel about the idea of direct-to-newspaper leaks via the internet? Do you think whistleblowers will have faith that, say, the New York Times or The Guardian would be able to create a site that will effectively shield a source’s identity?”
Assange said: “Those organisations could create such a site if they cared about it, but it is our experience that, at least The Guardian and The New York Times, do not care so much to protect sources.
“In fact, for Cablegate, The Guardian and New York Times communicated on open phones. They swapped cables over email.
“The New York Times approached the White House with its list of stories that it was going to publish on the cables, one week before publication, and campaigned against the alleged source of the cables, Bradley Manning.
“We also cannot be sure that they would even publish the stories that they receive. The New York Times sat on the story about the National Security Agency mass tapping Americans for over a year. CBS sat on the story on the torture of Abu Ghraib for months.”
Questions were also asked about whether WikiLeaks intended to release documents about UFO’s, whether the organisation was going to “spread out to other countries as well, operating in a truly global sense” and about how to write about the WikiLeaks cables. “I find myself overwhelmed by the scope and volume of your content,” said Currie Jean of Canada.
Assange also explained how to best support WikiLeaks, a question he said many people had asked.
“This is a good question. But at the moment, because of the … illegal financial blockade against us by Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and other banking institutions, money is actually most important.
“If you go to Wikileaks.ch/support.html you will see several different ways that you can contribute to our cause.”
He continued: “What is most important for you to do is to get together. Not to wait for our direction, but rather find similar people.
“Look on blogs for people who share your views. Look on twitter for people who speak the same way that you do. Look in your local neighbourhood. Join free press organisations where they exist and you will find supporters of WikiLeaks.
“Get together, and you will work out how to produce the campaign, because that is what we are involved in — a campaign for the rights of freedom of expression around the world.
“And that is not just our campaign, that is your campaign.
“It is a campaign that should be for all people because freedom of expression, in the end, is something that all people use, not only to impart their views and their needs but to hear what the world is like and how they can function in it and how a better society can be built.
“So that is, in fact, the cause of all, and we need you to go out and make it the cause of all.”
The WikiLeaks Roundtable website explains how to get involved: Visit: www.wikileaksroundtable.org
[Kate Ausburn edits the blog www.activ8change.net .]