Few stories last year were more dramatic than the WikiLeaks document dump. It exposed both the internal workings of American diplomacy and the weaknesses of its infrastructure. The impact of it was so great that you were even on the short list for Time’s Person of the Year.
Subsequent to the tsunami you created there was a backwash of attacks from critics and legal authorities. I was one of those who defended you as a journalist who was doing what any journalist would do after coming into possession of controversial documents that had a clear value to the public. I saw no difference between your actions and those of Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers fame.
I was encouraged to hear that you regarded yourself as journalist and proudly asserted the rights and privileges of the profession. However, you cannot assert those rights selectively.
Recently you announced that you were in possession of documents that you were holding as “insurance” in the event that anything happened to you or WikiLeaks. You made it known that included in that batch were cables referencing Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.
The description of these documents as insurance implies that if they were to be released they would cause some discomfort to the subjects. So you are confessing that you have damaging information about Murdoch that you are deliberately keeping secret.
This violates the code of journalistic ethics to which you are lately claiming to be signatory. It is wholly inappropriate to use such documents as a bargaining chip for your own personal benefit. The information you are hoarding belongs to the people. What’s more, Rupert Murdoch, in his role as the planet’s chief propagandist and media baron, is doing tangible harm to the world and to the practice of journalism. If you have information that, if released, would diminish Murdoch’s grip on the press, you have an obligation to release it now. It does not belong to you. It is not your “get out of jail free” card.
By stashing these papers away for your own purposes you weaken your case for being a journalist. But worse than that, you make yourself culpable for every evil thing Murdoch does. If you have the ability to diminish his influence and refrain from acting, then you share responsibility for whatever he does until you do act.
That is why I am calling on you to release what you have on Murdoch now. If it has public value then it belongs to the public. Murdoch’s secrets have no special grant to be kept secret. Ellsberg didn’t squirrel away batches of data to blackmail his adversaries and neither should you. And remember this, if Murdoch had any damaging information about you he wouldn’t hesitate for a second to broadcast it far and wide.
Set it free, Julian. And if you do not I certainly hope someone at WikiLeaks leaks the info despite you. It would really be a shame if let your paranoia turn you into the thing you have been fighting against.