Sydney Ideas: WikiLeaks insiders reveal ongoing media challenges

10 October 2013

Espen Moe,
"[Image: Flickr/Espen Moe, used under the Creative Commons licence]"

Why would a former diplomat run for Senate in the WikiLeaks party? What would it be like to have lunch and dinner with Julian Assange in prison? How did newspaper editors decide on what leaked documents to publish when they became available?

An expert panel will answer these questions at a free event at the University of Sydney this Friday. Panelists including Professor John Keane, Adjunct Professor Peter Fray, Dr Alison Broinowski, Dr Arne Hintze and Dr Benedetta Brevini will provide insider accounts into the workings of the controversial whistleblower group while taking a look at the challenges faced by the media in an age of increased transparency.

Adjunct Professor Peter Fray from the University's Department of Media And Communications was editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald when WikiLeaks presented access to vast amounts of secret documents.

"Events like Cablegate and, more recently, the leaking of the NSA files, do present special challenges for journalists in this age of hyper-connectivity," he says.

"One is the sheer volume and complexity of material. The big challenge to journalist is how to interrogate that information and make sense of it."

According to Adjunct Professor Fray, the "age-old" challenge of informing without putting individuals or national security at risk was another major concern.

"There is a difference between, say, the leaked dramatic US video, Collateral Damage, and the US cables that we ran. The cables were primarily insights into what US officials were saying about Australia and its domestic/international positions and policies.

"They were embarrassing for the Australian and US governments, no doubt, and would have caused a flurry of meetings and diplomatic apologies. But we were very careful not to put anyone at risk, and I don't think our publications did."

Dr Alison Broinowski, an academic and former diplomat, had very clear reasons for running as a Senate candidate for the WikiLeaks party in last month's election.

"I want to expose the hypocrisy of governments which spy on their own citizens' communications, yet become outraged and vindictive when their own are leaked," she says.

"We aren't interested in holding office, or holding power, but in holding government to account.'

Dr Broinowski and Adjunct Professor Fray will be joined on the panel by Professor of Politics John Keane, from the University's Institute of Democracy and Human Rights, who visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as well as Dr Benedetta Brevini and Dr Arne Hintze (University of Cardiff), co-editors of Beyond Wikileaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism and Society.

"Raising public awareness on matters of transparency is today of paramount importance," says Dr Brevini. "That's why this event will bring together insiders for a reflection on Wikileaks' lessons. It is timely and vital."

The event is sponsored by Media@Sydney, Sydney Ideas and the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights and will be chaired by Professor Gerard Goggin from the Department of Media and Communications.

Event details:

What: Beyond WikiLeaks: from an international whistle-blowing platform to a global political movement

When: Friday 11 October 5.30pm-7:30pm

Where: General Lecture Theatre, The Quadrangle, The University of Sydney Camperdown campus

Cost: Free and open to all with registration requested

Bookings: book online now Sydney Ideas 9351 1935

Follow the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on Facebook here

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208, 0434 561 056

Email: 08161e2a181c24215c3b241723101e160166155027784e14