WikiLeaks and freedom of the press

I am all for freedom of the press. Part of the journalist’s job is to inform; to tell the public what it needs to know, even if the government or some company or other entity disagrees. We as citizens have a right to transparency, to know how our government does what it does, why our government decides some actions are permissible, and, perhaps, even downright justified, no matter how reprehensible they seem.

However. While transparency is the goal, the right of the press to inform is more nuanced than just slapping any and all information online or on paper for public consumption. Sometimes, information has to be restricted in order to protect a life. Sometimes, journalists have to make a judgement call as to whether a story is worth endangering someone or some group. After all, what use is protection for journalists if journalists don’t protect others? It’s a give-and-take.

Which is why I cannot possibly fathom why WikiLeaks is still claiming freedom of the press as defense for its actions. It’s one thing to release information that gives the public an inside look at how the government is running the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s another to unnecessarily place the lives of thousands of American troops in danger. There was no judgement passed, no thought processed when WikiLeaks posted this information. Just a blind desire to spread information, no matter what the cost.

In my view, freedom of the press does not include the right to act stupidly. And while I believe that freedom of the press is something that cannot and should not be restricted or removed, I think that it is easier for the press to retain its full freedom when it protects certain freedoms of others. Sometimes, a bit of a conscious can go a long way.

Further reading:

WikiLeaks starts a “hacktivism” movement.

WikiLeaks’ effect on diplomacy.

Transparency and the internet.

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