In WikiLeaks fight, U.S. journalists take the Fifth

Nancy A. Youssef, reporting for McClatchy Newspapers, writes:

Not so long ago, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could count on American journalists to support his campaign to publish secret documents that banks and governments didn’t want the world to see.

But just three years after a major court confrontation that saw many of America’s most important journalism organizations file briefs on WikiLeaks’ behalf, much of the U.S. journalistic community has shunned Assange — even as reporters write scores, if not hundreds, of stories based on WikiLeaks’ trove of leaked State Department cables.

Some call him a traitor, responsible for what’s arguably one of the biggest U.S. national security breaches ever. Others say a man who calls for government transparency has been too opaque about how he obtained the documents.

The freedom of the press committee of the Overseas Press Club of America in New York City declared him “not one of us.” The Associated Press, which once filed legal briefs on Assange’s behalf, refuses to comment about him. And the National Press Club in Washington, the venue less than a year ago for an Assange news conference, has decided not to speak out about the possibility that he’ll be charged with a crime.

With a few notable exceptions, it’s been left to foreign journalism organizations to offer the loudest calls for the U.S. to recognize WikiLeaks’ and Assange’s right to publish under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

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3 thoughts on “In WikiLeaks fight, U.S. journalists take the Fifth

  1. Ian Arbuckle

    I believe that except for a very few obvious exceptions journalism as a profession has transformed itself to one of public relations (PR) intermediary on behalf of the status quo rather than the fourth estate as it once was. A noble press ready to investigate and print the truth, ask difficult questions and keep power on its tows has morphed into a bunch of kowtowing scriveners jostling for a place at the trough, the privilege of flying to India or China with the President, or Foreign Secretary, as he or she travels with a brace of fat corporate corporate elites, while playing the role of a glorified conglomerate CEO. Journalists receive their briefings already nuanced with prepared “buzz lines” which they faithfully repeat in order to to stay in good graces. They tow the the policy line wherever the go whether “inbedded” or not so that for example when writing about Iran the will faithfully remember to repeat the line;
    “Tehran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes, but the US and other Western nations suspect it of seeking to build nuclear weapons.” They would never dream of adding to that by their own initiative; “…despite the fact that the IAEA has confirmed that there is absolutely no evidence to support such suspicions.”

    One can hardly call this journalism therefore the reaction of their “associations” to someone who is actually going out there and upsetting apple carts and doing the job is hardly surprising. These hacks can only draw breath in the hallways of their ever shrinking news media world by treading softly a narrow path that never offends their corporate sponsors or the political puppets those sponsors paid highly to place in seats of political power.

    How pathetically low have the press come? As such the main stream media are just accomplishing their designated propaganda roll for the fascist regime:

    “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” – Joseph Goebbels.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    Does freedom of the press include that of avoiding controversy, of defining whose freedom is acceptable, of deciding who should be accepted and rejected in the ‘club’, of censoring unwelcome material, of classifying which are acceptable or unacceptable opinions, and allowing the powerful to decide what they might say and think?

    In the corporate world of today, some journalists are taking on the role of judges and lawyers, while others are becoming paid hacks, prostituting themselves for status and an inside position. The ‘news’ provided by these organizations is all suspect unless corroborated by the work of other journalists outside of their reach — this is why they are against Assange, who has revealed the lies within their work.

    If a democracy is only as strong as the understanding of its citizens, the US is on a very precipitous downward slope.

  3. rosemerry

    What terrible cowards are the MSM “journalists”. It is the job of journalists to give information to the public about what governments keep secret, and Assange has been careful and successful in avoiding any casualties. How can he be a traitor? he is not a Yank!!! Also, it is the responsibility of the authorities to keep secrets safe if they think it is needed. As for revealing sources, all journalists know that is forbidden.

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