The Power of Free Press – [DIGC202]

When I think of the word “hacker” I am automatically reminded of a group of youths at my local high school that used to claim they had infiltrated government and private websites. “I hacked the Pentagon” one used to say. Now after almost two years of tertiary education learning about digital networks and privacy, if these so called “hackers” had achieved what they broadcasted throughout the school, I think these boys would have been visited by some heavy handed Government officials during our Information Technology classes.
To me this just sounded like fun and games. A couple of teenage kids with some source code, ‘trying’ (I think they were more into playing Counterstrike to be honest) to access government information. Little did I know that there was a movement going on at the time that would reveal documents that expose the world to some of the greatest injustices by governments in recent history.

Wikileaks Timeline of Events

For those of you who haven’t heard of Wikileaks essentially it is non-for profit media organisation that brings important news to the public. Essentially creating greater transparency between governments and those who are governed. Julian Assange the mastermind behind Wikileaks and what many media and technology theorists call the ‘Fifth Estate’, which essentially means that now instead of the older ‘Estate’ models, the production of news according to Jay Rosen has become a combination of professional and amateur content.
Since Wikileaks inception in 2006 the site has been responsible for uncovering some of the largest news stories in recent history. From war, killings, torture and detention to government and public corruption the aim and efforts of Wikileaks and its small diverse team of likeminded individuals continues to push the boundaries between delivering the truth and causing mass disruption and unrest between warring nations.

It is interesting to note that of late, Wikileaks has been remarkably quiet, some would argue almost too quiet for an organisation that was established to continuously question the truth. In the direct words of Wikileaks “Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations.
Julian Assange himself has also come under intense inspection; accused of the sexual assault of two women in Sweden and releasing classified US military documents, he is no hauled up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, fearing that Swedish officials and the United States government will arrest him over each issue.

To talk about the Wikileaks story in-depth I would almost need to start another blog on the topic. There have been far too many subplots and twists and turns throughout the life of Wikileaks to cover in one 500-word posting. However, the key concept from the Wikileaks story is the notion of free press and our democratic right to know the truth on matters that concern not only us, but also our fellow man/woman around the world.

At the start of my tertiary education I was a sceptic of the Wikileaks phenomena. I, like many others was afraid that the information being leaked could be used for greater evil if it made its way into the hands of the wrong groups or individuals. I was brainwashed by mainstream media into believing that there was an injustice against governments with this information being leaked. I have since radically changed my opinion. Fenster believes that “Publishing [leaked material] improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. I now have to agree. With the current media landscape the way it is at the moment. We need institutions like Wikileaks in light of a better term “to keep the bastards honest”.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing