As someone who has been following the Wikileaks saga for quite a while now, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to see the current problems they are facing. The latest is potential closure due to financial blockades imposed by Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Western Union and the Bank of America, and is a frightening reminder of the power that these corporations hold over all of us.
During my career as a PR I have spoken to hundreds of journalists, and I have the utmost respect for them. Unfortunately the idea that ‘bad news’, ie death, scandal and terror, sells papers is still rife, much to the despair of many of these journalists, a lot of whom have had to allow editorial policy to override their morals and principles through fear of losing their jobs.
If the financial blockades are not lifted and Wikileaks really is forced to close, it would undeniably be a huge blow to free speech, whatever you think of the organisation or Julian Assange personally.
This brings me to my question. Could the closure of Wikileaks spark a revolution in journalism?
For this I would like to refer back to an interview I saw courtesy of TED which was filmed in July 2010. When Chris Anderson asked Julian Assange, “Wikileaks in the last few years has released more classified documents than the rest of the world’s media combined, can that possibly be true?” Assange answered back with, “Yeah can it possibly be true – it is a worry isn’t it, that the rest of the world’s media is doing such a bad job that a little group of activists are able to release more of that type of information than the rest of the world press combined?”
Now as a person in the media I would like to say that Assange’s statement was a little on the strong side and slightly harsh, considering I have met over the years a lot of absolutely wonderful journalists, with good hearts, but his main point is true.
It is clear that influence from the government and large corporations can get in the way somewhat when the truth is concerned. At the end of the day, journalists working for any organisation are severely limited in what they can write, bound by their employers’ ideals as well the quality of information supplied to them.
This is where a little revolution can take place. With more and more journalists becoming freelance, and with it being easier to create publications like online magazines, newspapers and blogs, there has never been a better time for a change. Journalists now have the ability to escape the restrictions of corporate media and really connect with the public.
So could the closure of Wikileaks end up generating a new type of journalist? One that has the freedom to release the other half of the story, one that has the freedom to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I certainly hope so, and believe that we are seeing it already. Slowly but surely more journalists are getting the courage to speak their mind and report on the things that matter to them and the public.
I will be fully behind them, and I bet the public will too.