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perspective

WikiLeaks’ tightrope getting even tauter


Latest releases raise questions about partisanship

Critics of WikiLeaks had been unable to pinpoint any evidence of political partisanship although they’d really love to do so. But the tight guard of the so-called whistle-blower may have been lowered somewhat. The latest releases focus on the US Democrats, so combine that with the fact that this is an election year in America and more than a few eyebrows have been raised. Why now, many people ask. What’s WikiLeaks’ real motive?
If not now, then when? WikiLeaks’ supporters have shot back. They have a point if we really think about it. If the “leaks” are damaging to the American Democrats but true, what justifies hiding them? If WikiLeaks has similar information regarding the Republicans but is holding it back, then it’s another story. If not, should we deem the latest leaks the selling of WikiLeaks’ soul? 
WikiLeaks has always been controversial. One US diplomat, when based in Thailand, described WikiLeaks as someone who has stolen your computer notebook and made public everything stored in the hard drive. 
That was a smart but not quite accurate comparison, simply because your notebook is “absolutely private” while government notebooks should be anything but. WikiLeaks, in fact, has been doing what top US diplomatic officials have been preaching about all over the world. It has gone to the extreme in adhering to the principle of freedom of information.
The latest leaks involved emails and voicemails, with much of the information purportedly exposing apparent bias by top Democratic National Convention officials against Hillary Clinton’s primary rival, Bernie Sanders. A conspiracy theory has it that behind the data leak were Russian intelligence officials who want to see Republican nominee Donald Trump elected the next US president.
A Western media commentary says WikiLeaks has turned from a whistle-blower into a political weapon. This, the commentary charges, flies in the face of WikiLeaks’ non-partisan image and the apparent philosophy of bringing government information that citizens should know about to the public in its rawest, most original form. Again, there are two sides of the same coin here.
The big question should be whether what the anti-Sanders DNC officials did is right or wrong, not what WikiLeaks did is right or wrong. If what the DNC officials did is right, then there’s nothing the Democrats should be worried about. If what the DNC officials did is wrong, then WikiLeaks must be right in exposing it. The DNC, after all, is a public organisation whose actions must be transparent and accounted for. 
The latest leaks, however, include some private information on, for example, party donors. On this, criticism against WikiLeaks is absolutely justified. 
Private information must remain sacred in today’s world, and a big player like WikiLeaks must set a good example. The DNC leaks can be both praised and condemned, so to speak.
Disliked by the powers-that-be, particularly in countries associated with strong democracies, WikiLeaks certainly has been walking a tightrope. Information it releases has always been and will always be either “private” or “national security sensitive”. There will always be some people who don’t like it. This only means friends can turn into foes overnight, as leaked information can affect just about anybody.
Most of all, the fact that information released by WikiLeaks can hurt just about anybody means it walks a very delicate tightrope. The organisation’s code of conduct, or whatever it’s called, must remain everlastingly solid and unchangeable. 
Protecting a principle that critics say it doesn’t have is the toughest challenge for WikiLeaks, because the powers-that-be come and go, but information will continue to play a big role forever. 

Published : July 31, 2016

By : The Nation