Group of 200 sign letter defending WikiLeaks

11:00 am - April 8th 2011

by Newswire    

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More than 200 prominent public figures have signed a letter published in New Statesman today strongly defending WikiLeaks’ right to publish.

Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, authors Philip Pullman and Salman Rushdie, as well as actors Susan Sarandon, Laura Wade, Oliver Stone, Steve Coogan, Woody Harrelson and Sam West are among the list of those whom “strenuously denounce” threats of death and prosecution made against WikiLeaks’ director Julian Assange by prominent US politicians.

The letter, presented by the Frontline Club, was assembled by a group of well-known publishers, journalists and filmmakers known as the Committee for the Right to Publish, which includes writer Henry Porter and human rights activist Jemima Khan.

Henry Porter said:

In drafting this letter, we sought to reassert a principle that is easily forgotten in times of change and crisis. We believe that the letter should become a kind declaration that can be signed the world over by journalists and all those who understand the importance of information to democracy.

Translated into nine languages, the letter is supported by the organisations OpenDemocracy, Reporters Without Borders, The Newspaper Guild (Communications Workers of America), The International Federation of Journalists and Article 19.

Liberal Conspiracy editor Sunny Hundal is also one of the original 200 signatories.

The full letter
Open Letter in Defence of WikiLeaks’ Right to Publish

We believe that free societies everywhere are best served by journalism that holds governments and corporations to account. We assert that the right to publish is equal to, and the consequence of, the citizen’s right to know.

While we believe in personal privacy and accept a need for confidentiality, we hold that disclosure in the public interest is paramount. Liberty, accountability and true democratic choice can only be guaranteed by rigorous scrutiny.

We defend the right to publish the truth responsibly without obstruction and persecution by the state. The primary duty of journalists everywhere is to advance the cause of understanding, not to assist governments and powerful interests in suppressing information, and never to defer to ingrained habits of secrecy.

With these principles in mind, we declare our support for the publication of documents released through leaks. They have cast significant light on the behaviour of governments and corporations in the modern world. WikiLeaks has done the world great service. We strenuously denounce the threats of death and criminal prosecution of its director for publishing, together with many organisations throughout the world, information that is clearly in the public interest.

Those in authority routinely oppose such disclosure, as they have done since the struggle to publish the proceedings of the British Parliament over two hundred years ago right through to the release of the Pentagon Papers.

We believe no democracy has ever been harmed by an increase in the public’s knowledge and understanding.Therefore, we, the undersigned, declare our unyielding support for the principles of journalistic inquiry and openness, and condemn the forces that threaten both.

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Reader comments

I might have been more supportive if they could have been bothered to condemn the treatment of Bradley Manning by a US government whose sense of embarrassment is such that they are busting a gut to get any dirt at all on Wikileaks, even if they have to psychologically destroy one of their own citizens in the process.

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