An in-depth feature on Wikileaks in the latest edition of the New Yorker provides a promising insight into how this not-for-profit website could have found one sustainable online future for real investigative journalism.
The magazine shadowed Wikileaks founder Julian Paul Assange in March and early April this year as a team from the website worked in Iceland on the release of a video which it would call Collateral Murder (an excerpt of which is embedded in this blog post).
The chilling video showed US helicopter gunships shooting on Iraqi civilians in 2007 and killing, among others, Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.
The New Yorker piece reveals the extent to which Wikileaks did a real investigative journalism job on the video release, having first to break the military encryption of it and then go to some lengths to ensure that the website it was hosted on would be secure. Wikileaks journalists also travelled to Iraq to find out how many civilians were killed in the attacks.
The broadcast of the video prompted more than $200,000 in donations, the New Yorker reports, prompting Assange to write on Twitter: ‘New funding model for journalism: try doing it for a change.”
Wikileaks has sometimes appeared to act irresponsibly, publishing soldiers’ social security numbers and revealing details of anti-IED devices which could undermine their safety and Assange says that some members of Wikileaks might get ‘blood on our hands”.
Noting that Wikileaks is now seen by some as an ‘impartial arbiter of truth”, Assange tells the New Yorker: ‘To be completely impartial is to be an idiot. This would mean we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed.”
The publication of the Collateral Murder video, as reported here on Press Gazette, prompted new calls for a US inquiry into the killings of the Reuters staff.