This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at marietje.schaake@ep.europa.eu

Media: WikiLeaks to draw weak information laws - media expert

Marietje
By Walter Wafula, 3.1.2011, www.bizcommunity.com Journalists should be prepared to face crude regulations against information flow as governments move to tighten the leads on state secrets according to a Europe-based media expert. In an interview late last year, Aidan White, the secretary general of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) predicted new risks for journalists as a result of reports based on the WikiLeaks cables. "I think there is a danger that the backlash from governments will see more attempts to control official information and a weakening of freedom of information laws. We have to be prepared for that," he told a team of journalists last week. Aidan's prediction comes at a time when the world is awash with news sourced from whistle-blowing website: www.wikileaks.com. The website has since been shut down while its founder Julian Assange is facing sex crime charges in Sweden. Releasing classified cables However, WikiLeaks.com has been in the spotlight since last year, for releasing over 480,000 classified military and diplomatic cables into the public domain through major media organisations including; The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and The Guardian. In November 2010, it started releasing a batch of 250,000 files of the US state department diplomatic cables. The sensitive cables exposed secret diplomatic communications between the US and global leaders. Marietje Schaake a Liberal member of the European parliament who was part of the online discussion observed that governments have already started acting in a crisis mode with regard to the leaked information. "I was in the US last week and am worried about what we see there in attempts to restrict internet freedom and free expression," She said. With the new and quick advances in technology she added that there was no need for many more laws and regulations governing fundamental freedoms like free speech and expression. "We need to have values-based frameworks within which as much freedom is enabled," she said. Call for professionalism For the media to thrive in such an environment, White called for professionalism in relying on the cables as sources of news. "WikiLeaks provides a real test. We journalists have to clean up our act and improve our performance if we are to use the WikiLeaks information in a professional and useful way. Try to verify information, ensure that it is truthful and relevant and reliable." He said; if journalists act ethically they will treat the WikiLeaks information with care. They will examine its credibility and see whether it is useful and whether or not it can be published without putting anyone at risk. "These are the ethical tests we apply to all information from different sources," he said. To play it safe, editors at Britain's Independent newspaper divided the cables into three categories: genuine revelation; unsubstantiated gossip and rumour; and no-go areas. "They found that only a few of the cables had genuine news value, and of those few, less than a handful were considered newsworthy," said Andrea Thalemann a Brussels-based journalist trainer during the interview. The African press has made attempts to localise the cable stories by interviewing sources at home based on the issues reported.