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Wikileaks Iraq War Logs October 24, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Web Video.
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Whistle blowing Website WikiLeaks has released nearly 400,000 pages of classified military logs chronicling the Iraq War, despite attempts by the Pentagon to stop the document dump. In the largest leak of its kind in US military history, the logs offer an incomplete, yet graphic portrait of one of the most contentious issues in the Iraq war — how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and by whom.

The documents themselves are known at the Pentagon as ‘SIGACTs,’ raw field reports chronicling “Significant Action” in the conflict as seen by U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq. The archive is the second cache obtained by Wikileaks and made available to news organizations.

Shedding new light on the war, the secret logs allegedly show the US ignored systemic abuse, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to news reports. Der Spiegel, Al-Jazeera News, The Guardian and Le Monde have been collaborating with WikiLeaks on the latest leak.

To search the Iraq documents, click here.
To view documents in an interactive map click here.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is ‘a hacker fighting for the freedom of information.’ At 39, the former journalist has built his life around an uncompromising quest for information. He has no home and travels the world with one bag containing his clothes, and another holding his computer. The Iraq papers is the latest stage in a life of action against vested interest.

Wikileaks’ operators and volunteers – five full-timers, and another 1,000 on call – are almost all anonymous. The intentions are laudable – to “allow whistleblowers and journalists who have been censored to get material out to the public.” Who will watch the watchdogs? The Web has its own wisdom, and the crowds will provide the needed context, analysis and background.

Wikileaks’ most high-profile previous success came with the release of a helicopter cockpit video that showed civilians shot in Baghdad. The publicity from video added US$1m to the group’s coffers and prompted more people to come forward with leaks of their own. Read more.

Related reads:
Iraq war logs: WikiLeaks v Washington
Wanted by the CIA: Julian Assange – Wikileaks founder
Wikileaks: How website shines light on world’s darkest secrets
Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work


Wikileaks Collateral Murder Video April 11, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video, YouTube.
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Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows a Reuters journalist and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad.

They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well.

The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and said the US military did not know how the deaths occurred. So far there has been no official Pentagon response to the Wkileaks video..

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. Wikileaks released this 39-minute video with transcripts and supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on the site Collateral Murder.

The website’s organisers say they were given the footage, which they say comes from cameras on US Apache helicopters. They say they decrypted it, but would not reveal who gave it to them.

The Wikileaks site campaigns for freedom of information and allows people to anonymously post leaked documents on the Web, saying its aim is to promote transparency. It was created in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

The website’s organisers complained recently of coming under surveillance by the US government, and of harassment by other governments, ostensibly for their role in posting leaked documents on sensitive subjects.

Related read
Welcome to a new age of whistle-blowing
Wikileaks: Web censorship won’t work
What the WikiLeaks Media Blitz Has Revealed About WikiLeaks

An Offshore Journalism Haven? February 15, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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As powerful groups around the world seek to smother the journalistic freedom to reveal information, the business of “refugee hosting” is an idea whose Web time has come. An emerging class of refugees could be publishers like those behind Malaysia Today, which is no longer published in Malaysia but hosted in neighbouring Singapore.

Iceland may become an offshore “journalism and transparency haven” for leakers and investigators. Under a “Modern Media Initiative,” Iceland intends to become a bastion for global press freedom and a global haven for investigative journalism.

The package of laws, launched with the help of Wikileaks, the online whistleblowing site, seeks to defend freedom of speech and protect sources and fight libel tourism. The idea is to reform Iceland’s media law to be an attractive jurisdiction for investigative journalists.

The media law mix could go like this:

Source protection laws from Sweden
First Amendment from the United States
Belgian protection laws for journalists

With a population of 320,000, Iceland is seeking to transform itself from a country dependent on fishing into a destination relevant to knowledge-based enterprises.

By positioning itself as the first jurisdiction to offer the necessities of an information society, the hope is that journalist-friendly laws will encourage media businesses to move to Iceland.

The idea is akin to the offshore financial havens that corporations use to avoid government tax regimes – only for free speech. Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?

The IMMI aims to pull together good practice from around the world and incorporate it into a single body of law. The proposal will come before the Icelandic parliament tomorrow in the first step towards turning the idea into law. The people behind Wikileaks have been involved in drafting the law.

Indeed, a haven for free expression would help counter the growing practice of libel tourism. British courts in particular, have become a favoured destination for complainants seeking to take advantage of the UK’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws.

The House of Lords recently established a government panel to look into the possibility of amending its laws to make it tougher for foreigners to bring defamation suits in Britain, amid fears that current British law was having a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

We’ve become good at fending off many legal attacks, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts what we do.

Large newspapers are routinely censored by legal costs. It is time this stopped. It is time a country said, enough is enough, justice must be seen, history must be preserved, and we will give shelter from the storm.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor

Wikileaks is a non-profit website that has established a reputation for publishing leaked material. It recently had to suspend operations because of a lack of funding. The website says it will resume once operational costs have been covered.

Wikileaks has succeeded in bringing sensitive materials to light through a combination of technical and legal means. Submissions are anonymized and routed through countries with comprehensive journalistic source protection laws.

High-profile documents hosted on the site include a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, a document that detailed restrictions placed on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

When the Guardian was prevented from publishing documents on the alleged dumping of 400 tonnes of toxic waste on behalf of the global commodities trader Trafigura because of a super-injunction, the material ended up on Wikileaks days later.

The site played a role in Iceland’s financial crisis last summer when a national TV broadcaster was blocked from revealing a list of creditors in the country’s banking debacle. The broadcaster ran the url for the Wikileaks disclosure instead.

Following that, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange went to Iceland to discuss their idea for a journalism publishing haven on a talk show, then in a more detailed presentation at Reykjavík University.

The idea of a journalism haven is nice, but in practice it might be too complex to distinguish what is deemed ‘right’ comment from what is obviously wrong.

Protected from prosecution or libel by this ‘free press’ law, we can almost see media titles from China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Singapore publishing in Iceland, the new tower from which anyone can spout comment intolerable elsewhere.

Legal resiliency is in some ways the reverse of “libel tourism,” where plaintiffs file suit in a jurisdiction likely to give a favorable result. One famous case involves a suit filed in London by a Saudi billionaire against the Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels, for a story originally published in the Wall Street Journal in New York.

Some courts have ruled that placing an article online counts as publication if it is accessible from their jurisdiction, which would mean that a web story could be declared libelous anywhere in the world.

In the video below, Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt of Wikileaks discuss their vision of the information society, and the role of the whistle-blowing website in it. It was given at the Chaos Communications Congress hacker conference in Berlin on Dec. 27.em>

Further reading
Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work
WikiLeaks editor: why I’m excited about Iceland’s plans for journalism

Webscrubbing in Wikileaks Libel Row November 13, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News.
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Here’s an interesting read about a spat in Index on Censorship, Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression.

The New Statesman has removed a blog post caught between threats from an Iraqi billionaire and Web whistleblower site, Wikileaks. The site says the move would defame Wikileaks by implying its content was inaccurate. Wikileaks also claims news organisations were pressured to remove the offending articles.

Wikinews has confirmed that at least some of the articles involved definitely previously existed but have now been removed, including from newspapers that usually keep all of their articles online.

So does it mean that if a certain book contains inaccuracies, and a reviewer gave the book a good review, the publisher can now sue on the grounds that the reviewer has “defamed their professionalism” by offering a contrary opinion? Or if someone writes inaccuracies about another person (whether libellous or not), will this person risk being sued simply for daring to put the record straight publicly?

Related read:
Eight stories on Obama linked billionaire Nadhmi Auchi censored from the Guardian, Observer, Telegraph and New Statesman

Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work February 23, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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The order by a California court to muzzle anti-corruption site Wikileaks smacks of contempt for free speech online that parallels practices in repressive countries committed to Web censorship. As feeble as it is offensive, this abuse refocuses attention on the idea of a whistle-blower wiki whose time has come.


Prompted not by government but corporate interests, the restraining order on Wikileaks betrays an ignorance of the Internet domain system and an unfamiliarity with the instinct of Web communities to counter hostile action against free online speech. Outraged netizens have rushed to publicize alternate addresses of backup sites that remain online in defiance. The gag order has the opposite effect of what it intended.

Wikileaks is up from Sweden at ( and mirror sites hosted in Belgium (http://wikileaks.be/), Germany (http://wikileaks.de) and the Christmas Islands (http://wikileaks.cx). Fans of Wikileaks have distributed copies of the offending bank information on their sites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Now even folks who have not heard of Wikileaks or Julius Baer know about the fiasco.

Swiss Bank Julius Baer, registered in the Cayman Islands, sued Wikileaks and successfully requested that its Website be blocked. Wikileaks had posted documents about off-shore trust structures in the Cayman Islands which allegedly implicate Baer in money laundering and tax evasion. Baer claims Wikileaks published and altered documents stolen by a former executive. A recap of Wikileaks coverage of Bank Julius Baer is mirrored here.


Founded in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and computer specialists from around the world, Wikileaks is a wiki platform for whistle-blowers to safely post documents in a manner that cannot be traced. Other users could then analyse the information and discuss its reliability and significance.

Wikileaks says it has published more than 1.2 million documents. They uncover dirt ranging from rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq to the operation of prison at Guantánamo Bay. Though it focuses on government and corporate wrong-doing in Asia, Africa and Middle East, Wikileaks has received most attention with secrets revealed in the US, Europe and Caribbean.

This major test of First Amendment rights is unheard of in the West. As the case heads for the appeals court, one wonders why Wikileaks must explain the meaning of the First Amendment in the land of free speech. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site,” say David Ardia, Director of Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School:

First, the banks overreached. They worked out what appears to be a sweetheart deal with Wikileaks’ domain name registrar, Dynadot. Even though Dynadot appears to bear no liability for the material at issue, the banks added Dynadot as a defendant in the case.

No doubt thinking they had come up with a legal “silver bullet,” the banks and Dynadot signed a joint stipulation in which Dynadot agreed to, among other things, “lock” and “disable the wikileaks.org domain name” in exchange for being dismissed from the case (a case in which, it appears, Dynadot bore no liability). To give their stipulation the force of law, the banks slipped an order to the judge, which he promptly signed.

Director of Citizen Media Law Project, Harvard Law School

Wikileaks is getting legal help in its court fight. Freedom of speech group, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and digital rights advocacy, Electronic Frontier Foundation plan to argue on its behalf at a legal hearing on 29 February.

On another note, the European Parliament has accepted a move by Dutch conservative member Jules Maaten to consider Web censorship a trade barrier. This was first reported in Dutch, on the Web site of Maaten’s political party, the VVD. When the proposal is accepted, the EU has to take measure against countries who deploy Web censorship.

Related reads
Wikileak Blog
A Coming Chill over Internet Freedom

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