Monday, May 23

It is high time that Aftenposten takes a stand against its coverage of the Assange case

  • Gisle Selnes

    Professor, General Literary Studies

Julian Assange arrives at the London courtroom in 2019.

There is reason to be skeptical when Aftenposten claims that Wikileaks did not edit the documents before they were published.

This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.

In 2010, Aftenposten obtained a quarter of a million American embassy telegrams that had originally been leaked to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning. Assange had not approved this gift package, as the then political editor Harald Stanghelle mentioned as an “information tsunami”.

There is therefore reason to be skeptical when Aftenposten claims that Wikileaks – unlike themselves – did not edit the documents before they were published.

The claim was first formulated by Aftenposten’s journalist Kristoffer Rønneberg on September 3, 2011. Wikileaks endangered human life by publishing the documents unloaded, he wrote: “Anyone who wants to can now find out who has informed the United States about its own authorities’ human rights violations, corruption and abuse of power. These alerts […] is now in acute danger. “

The day before, Aftenposten had printed one NTB-notis where the blame is placed with The Guardian journalist David Leigh. In February 2011, he had revealed the password to the database with the encrypted documents. Leigh assumed that the password had expired, and the database was well hidden, but he was wrong: “Now has […] an unknown person on Twitter published an internet address where the files with the unedited documents are still located. And the password Leigh got […], to be […] seems to work. “

Do not create blest

Wikileaks was low for a long time so as not to create a buzz about the leak. Assange also tried – without success – to contact the US authorities so that together they could repair the damage. At the end of August 2011, the unloaded documents were available via several websites. That was when Wikileaks decided that they too would publish an unencrypted version.

Why? Yes, in this way the persons in question could check for themselves what information had been leaked – and take the necessary precautions. Assange assumed that the secret services had long ago linked passwords and databases.

David Leigh also leaked this material to The New York Times. Although there is no evidence, from the outside he and The Guardian are at least possible sources for the leak to Aftenposten. Then it is extra reckless of the newspaper to put all the blame on Assange without mentioning Leigh’s trampling. We are talking here about serious accusations that affect several of the points in the indictment against Assange.

Multiple media involved in editing

In the NRK program «Arena»On 19 January 2022, Rønneberg and Stanghelle were brought in as Assange experts. Rønneberg reiterated once again – without reservation or nuance – that Wikileaks had put informants in danger of death by publishing their name.

Stanghelle said with reference to the 2010 leaks that “Manning had the information, went to […] Assange […], and Wikileaks took on the role of publisher – without editing, they simply put it on the public table. “

This is sausage tissue. During the court hearings in 2020, several testimonies were heard about the great work Assange & co. did with the editing of this material. Wikileaks collaborated with The Guardian, Der Spiegel, El País and the New York Times. Towards the end of the work on the diploma telegrams As many as 50 media organizations were involved in the edit.

Aftenposten’s accusations against Assange break with Be careful of the poster section 3.2 on the selection of sources and control of information. Section 2.3 is also relevant: “Show transparency about underlying issues that may be relevant to the audience’s perception of the journalistic content.” The newspaper should correct the erroneous allegations as soon as possible.

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