The Assange dilemma. What is journalism in the online age?

By LAURIE PATTON | 13 June 2019 (Updated 26 November 2019)

It’s time for more humane treatment of Julian Assange. Guilt or innocence aside nobody should be treated the way he is allegedly being treated. More than 60 doctors have now written an open letter to the UK authorities saying he suffers from psychological problems including depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment. They want him transferred to a hospital. Clearly they have a point.

However, while I accept that Assange is not in good health and deserves better treatment let’s not applaud what was a dangerous practice and a dubious precedent – publicly exposing unverified data that could potentially risk peoples’ lives and create unforeseen collateral damage. How would you feel if it had included sensitive and confidential information about you?

In my opinion Assange is a whistle-blower not a journalist. He dumped huge amounts of confidential material secured illegally from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If he had leaked it directly to the media outlets that subsequently, but very selectively, published reports based on some of his WikiLeaks files he probably would not be in gaol in the UK facing extradition to the United States.

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