Julian Assange, the director of whistleblower intermediary website, WikiLeaks, released his site’s Afghan War Diary yesterday. And he did it in a very traditional way.
Claiming it to be the most comprehensive account of the war in Afghanistan to date, Julian Assange, the director of whistleblower intermediary website, WikiLeaks, released his site’s Afghan War Diary yesterday. And he did it in a very traditional way: at a press conference crowded with eager print and television journalists. But then WikiLeaks has become expert at marrying the skills of old and new media.
The site, launched in 2006, has been responsible for exposing everything from the contents of Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo account, to a video from 2007 showing two Reuters journalists and 13 others being shot dead by a US Apache helicopter. That video, known as “Collateral Murder”, eventually went viral and with over 7.1m views on YouTube has helped give the site impressive international clout and status.
But, it’s Assange’s most recent release, that has become immediate front page news around the world: 76,911 reports from US military communications in Afghanistan describing the circumstances and death tolls – of both friend and foe – in incidents occurring between 2004 and 2010. It’s available in an easy-to-use online format – there were over 23,000 concurrent downloads at the time of the scoop’s launch.
The content of the reports is far from surprising, damning though they may be: one expects the immediate self-reporting in wartime to be a little suspect and patchy. And in a world where adding “Wiki” to anything makes many seriously question its authenticity (especially when Wikipedia entries are changed to suit one person’s view of the world), it is an undoubted coup that the site has generated such old school media fervour and backing.
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