Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Wikileaks Exposure of Secret US Military Documents: A Prime Example of Data Journalism



The www.wikileaks.org homepage where confidential US military
documents under the name of "Afghan War Diary 2004-2010"
have been published


In the past, we heard of investigative journalism (reporting with in-depth research and follow-ups), yellow journalism (heavy emphasis on sensationalism and use of unscrupulous methods for attracting and influencing readership), new journalism (reporting using literary or fictional writing styles), muckrake journalism (exposing corruptions and scandals of important persons), citizen journalism (journalism performed by ordinary citizens who gather, analyze and disseminate news and photographs), and now we are encountering data journalism (supplying raw information or data -- both open and secret -- to the public so that they can make sense of them and form their own opinions on an event or issue) in its heyday.

The most recent mind-blowing leaks that this website published on July 25, 2010 contains around 92,000 classified (secret) US military documents on the Afghanistan war covering the period of January 2004 to December 2009. These documents give a clear picture of the situation of the Afghan war at the ground-level.

Following the WikiLeaks leaks, as a result of a pre-arrangement, the New York Times, the Guardian of Britain and Der Spiegel, a German magazine, on July 26, published summaries and articles based of the secret documents.

Some of the important information that become clearer and confirmed from these secret reports are:

  • The Taliban are using portable heat-seeking missiles to attack US and allied aircrafts and helicopters.
  • Secret US commando units killed insurgents as well as ordinary citizens while in their missions.
  • The ISI, the Pakistani spy agency, is cooperating both with the USA and the Taliban factions.
  • Under the veiled unity, there is bitter division among the US and the allies regarding the Afghan war.
The governments of US, Britain and Canada criticized the leaks and said that these will result in more casualties of allied forces. Pakistan flatly denied that it still cooperates with and assists the Taliban factions.

The WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website, founded by Julian Assange, a one-time Australian computer hacker, has been practising data journalism since July, 2007. It is "a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to to the public. It says: "We think better transparency is at the heart of less corruption and better democracies." The WikiLeaks also agrees with the ruling of the US Supreme Court on the Pentagon Papers that "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." In a recent interview to Britain's Channel 4 TV, Julian Assange said that the WikiLeaks is "the vanguard of a particular ideal -- that justice comes about because of the disclosure of abuse."
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