An Open Letter To Julian Assange

Dear Julian,

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.


8 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Julian Assange

  1. Julian Assange has already come forward with documents and information that has put his life and his personal freedom at great risk. I’m sure that in due time he will release the damaging information against NewsCorp and Murdoch too however, I also believe he’s entitled to offer himself a modicum of protection, until all the information he has is released … wouldn’t it be a shame if in the name of impatience, he released those particular documents and then nothing else of import became open for public review because he was no longer able to publish anything at all? I think that would be a crime and a shame for the world …

    • I appreciate what Assange has done, but I think this insurance thing is misguided and it lets Murdoch off the hook.

      On what basis do you claim that Assange will eventually release the info? That would suggest that whatever threat he is asserting will come to an end. When? Why?

      I don’t really see the value of this insurance anyway. If some government agency has it out for him they won’t care what happens to Murdoch.

  2. Boy, this is really personal for you. You must really hate Rupert Murdoch – do you feel anything else besides hate?

  3. although trying to understand assange’s own wish to call explicit datasets as “insurances”, journalism is simply not playing around with personal interests.

    please note that the argumentation in this call (“This violates the code of journalistic ethics”) resembles the argumentation of a claim at the german body “Presserat” (press council), arguing that the exclusive contracts re cables with SPIEGEL are a breach of press codex 1.1 (against information monopole). it will be debated in march (see more about this on )

    also extremely disappointed of the turn wikileaks has taken – from a platform fighting for press freedom, for freedom of information, against “black markets of information” – to a webpage resembling a pure infodealer company, with a spokesperson wishing people to “piss off” if they show the same characteristics just like he has – denial to accept authorities as given, blindly. let’s not forget that a spokesperson is a spokesperson, a role is a role. the so-called “heart and sole” of something that was originally meant as a network is something concerned people observing the development can perfectly forego. there’s abolute no reason to feed the US gov’s belief in assange as the head and central of wikileaks, someone they just have to take out in order to get rid of the “wikileaks problem”. and there’s absolutely no reason to see this US gov belief filled by the spokesperson himself.

    Just my 2 eurocents, btw.

    • ah, f*ck, typo there. the “heart and sole” was the “heart and soul” a well-known quotation.

  4. I have read the interview in which Julian Assange mentioned News Corp but only in the context of listing some of the subjects future releases would contain. That interview, which was published by another journalist, John Pilger, would still be available online to anyone who wanted to check the truth. There was no suggestion of blackmailing Rupert Murdoch or anybody else and no threat implied. True journalistic integrity demands proper research to accurately check the facts. The word “insurance” did not appear anywhere in the interview but has been added by others in the various comments the issue has aroused.

    • You don’t read very carefully. This is from the interview which I linked to in the article above:

      Assange: “If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, ‘insurance’ files will be released.”

      So Assange did call them insurance files, and he is threatening to release them if certain circumstances unfold.

      Let me be clear. I support Assange and don’t want anything bad to happen to him. But I don’t think that this method of protection is either proper or effective. And I do think that, as a journalist, he is obliged to reveal the info he has on Murdoch et al.

Comments are closed.