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

By LAURIE PATTON | 13 June 2019 (Updated 22 July 2019)

Julian Assange dumped huge amounts of material secured from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If, instead, 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 facing extradition to the United States. His identity as a ‘source’ would have been protected. Ironically, any American journalists who used his material could quite possibly now be in prison for failing to reveal their source.

While there seems little doubt the material was genuine, that’s quite a separate matter from whether or not each document contained accurate and truthful accounts.

And while I sympathise with Mr Assange’s perilous personal plight and accept that he is not in good health, let’s not applaud what was a dangerous practice and a dubious precedent – publicly exposing sensitive and unverified data that could potentially risk people’s lives and create unforeseen collateral damage.

At the very least WikiLeaks arguably violated the privacy rights of people named in otherwise confidential documents.

There are calls for the Australian Government to help Assange, but it’s hard to see what can be done for the guy at this point.

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