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ARTICLE 19 statement on WikiLeaks and Internet disclosures

(ARTICLE 19IFEX) - 10 September 2010 - The current debate around WikiLeaks highlights the potential of the Internet to make previously secret information of public interest widely available. ARTICLE 19 calls for governments to improve their regimes for public access to information, refrain from punishing WikiLeaks and other sites that are releasing information in the public interest, and to protect and encourage whistleblowers.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the use of the Internet by new and established organisations as a mechanism to expand and democratise the availability of sources of information. We believe that this represents a powerful extension of the media's role to receive information from confidential sources and make it available to the public.

The recent debate around WikiLeaks and the disclosure of secret US government documents related to the Afghan War Diary and Baghdad airstrike video underscores the need for strong legal rights to be in place in all countries for the public to seek, receive and impart information as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international, regional and national human rights instruments. This includes recognition of the right to information, protection of whistleblowers, and facilitating the media's ability to obtain and publish information without barriers.

It should be recognised that WikiLeaks is not the only site on the Internet that provides a forum for whistleblowers. Other sites, including Cryptome.com and FAS.org, have provided an important public service making information of this type available for many years.

ARTICLE 19 believes that the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, developed by a group of experts and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Commission, is a proper starting point for evaluating concerns related to national security information in the WikiLeaks debate. Moreover, we identified the following issues that must be considered in ensuing that the public's rights under international law are respected:

1. Ensuring the Public's Right to Information

It is well established that the right of the public to information held by government bodies is essential in ensuring democracy. Over 90 countries have adopted laws that guarantee that right and it has been recognised in international agreements including the UN Convention against Corruption, the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, and by many international bodies including the UN, Council of Europe, African Union and the Organisation for American States.

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Read the statement in its entirety
Click here for the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information

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