Category Archives: Wikileaks

Assange and Anna: How two crusaders lost their sheen

Julian Assange loses the extradition bail hearing.

The famous whistleblower was back in news. Headlines were made, but they were placed differently. The prominence and vigour with which they were displayed almost a year back was missing. What accompanied were reports on how the Australian has become zero from hero.

This wasn’t something that I could have imagined in December 2010. Following Julain Asaange and reports related to him in media with great interest as a journalism student in London to me the man who came from nowhere looked all set for taking the world by storm.

He had information which no one else possessed; had five of world’s most distinguished newspapers working with him not to mention the innumerable followers and donors. Such was the craze that hackers ‘Anonymous’ took down MasterCard and Visa when they decided to block payments made for Wikileaks.

Few days back Assange announced that Wikileaks was forced to temporarily suspend publishing while it tried to secure economic survival. No big outcry, no further attacks. His bail plea was turned down, the print space shrunk and prominence diluted.

Prior to this his one time trusted lieutenants backed out, opened their own platform, the media partners broke their associations while the new ones didn’t have that impact.

Interestingly he even changed his legal team to no great results so far. Now he is trying to reach out to media more something that he completely ignored or did at will.

Still remember a mail from Sunshine press that came in my inbox on March 9 almost after a month of requests which read

Dear Avinash,

Many people are contacting Julian for interviews, so we are having to be selective as he is so busy. He would like to do one in India. Please can you put in a full bid so we have all the information and are able to make an informed decision.

Please let us know:

What your readership is

What the impact will be

What topic you wish to interview on

How long you need it to be

Would you need to take photos

Do you pay a fee for interviews – we are asking this question now as we are trying to raise revenue

Many thanks,

Sarah

The last bit was a shocker.

A freedom of information activist asking payment for interviews and that is when I started losing interest in the man I was following endlessly for four months.

Now I am abruptly jumping to a different track, but can’t help compare Assange with our home-grown hero Anna Hazare.

The Gandhian Social worker from Ralegaon Siddhhi who did his bit for the society in his own small yet meaningful ways far away from shutter bugs and hype– till he shot to national fame on April 4,2011.

He sat on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar and rest as many say is modern-day history.

The nation was caught in Anna frenzy, out of World cup euphoria and tired of reporting on endless scams sections of print media and some 24/7 news channels found a poster boy; that was the beginning of man taking over the mission he set out for.

In the seven months that followed Anna and his team dared to challenge the parliament, followers across the world were showing support. I witnessed a bunch of enthusiastic Indians camping outside Indian High Commission in London braving rains for the entire duration of Part II of Anna saga at Ramlila.

Such was the frenzy that former IPS and staunch Anna supporter Kiran Bedi said, “Anna is India, India is Anna.” Anna followed by his league of extraordinary gentlemen and women could do no wrong.

This is when he too started going down the Assange way in my opinion. After successfully surviving the allegations on Bushans, things started to go downhill.

Their pressing the cornered government to pass their proposed bill by August 30 was something that didn’t go well with many ardent supporters. Burning the copies of bill tabled by government in Parliament and terming it Jokepal followed. This was the beginning of ‘my way or the highway’ attitude doing the movement harm, from then onwards it was always Anna and Co. first with Jan Lokpal taking a backseat; at least in the public forums and memory.

Then spate of allegations against Team Anna disturbed the equilibrium and harmony of the public crusaders; with the team appealing people don’t vote for Congress in Hissar by elections, they grew bigger then their boots and not surprisingly some core team members walked away.

There were wide chinks in the armour. Followed were allegations(that can be read in Shekar Gupta’s comment Holier than Cow) on Team Anna’s integrity and they so far could not stand the heat.

Today even his next fast call or call it threat hasn’t created the fervour it created last time, its like one other news. The man and his brigade seem to be losing the Midas touch.

With both Assange and Anna losing out on the steam shows that when you rise to unparallel heights in public life the true test of your ability is not how you drive the cause but how you manage the situation.

A champion cause will not take you long, it’s the way you conduct yourself that will.

May be its time for both these crusaders to do some serious thinking and may be mend some of their ways, before they become chapters in history instead of creating one.

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Assange antics booked

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is back in news.

The Guardian on Monday released Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, bringing the man in confined to Norfolk country house back among headlines despite the Egypt crisis.

The newspaper has been making the most out of Wikileaks story courtesy reports and streams of tweets by Editor Alan Rusbridger.

Observing the events in the last few days on the Wikileaks front, it’s the not so friendly relationship between the whistleblower and its partners which has been making the news, barring few cables on Tunisia and Egypt.

Is this a case of overdose of leaks by the guardian? Who seems to have caught hold of a golden goose which they are not willing to let go.

Even in the heights of Egyptian protests, they didn’t let Assange fade in public memory. In fact they came out with the book wasting no time way before Assange’s 1.5 million dollar biography could hit the stands.

As the Guardian blows its trumpet, a text from a senior editor in India asking “Is he still hot?” set me thinking if he was or wasn’t?

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Let people filter the Wikileaks

Is information knowledge? Does more data mean greater understanding, even minus context and editorial filters?

This was a tweet from Barkha Dutt for her show We the People debating Will Wikileaks change Diplomacy forever?

The last bit of the question set me thinking. Does Wilkileaks require an editorial filter?

NO. Was my initial and intuitive response.

After a pause I thought, how different will editorial filter make Wikileaks look like? What will form the basis of filtering the information? Finally in the era of information sharing will it be possible to curtail the raw information going out to people?

In my opinion, which could be challenged, it’s alright at times to let the information flow out in raw form and let people make a judgement. For there is no guarantee that people will agree and toe the line editors dish out.

What Julian Assange has done is going to change the way people in power communicate, though it might not have an impact in the way diplomacy is conducted.

Validate

As Mukul Kesavan on the NDTV show pointed out that the New York Times went ahead and took the cables to the US government and after a check published them shows where not to go for reading the cables.

I agree, for the fact that one can’t be sure reading NYT in that case if that is the complete information.

Beyond Assange

A blog in the economist suggested WikiLeaks needs an ethical review board? It further observes WikiLeaks is an important organisation that’s doing something the world needs. But like other human-rights and humanitarian organisations, it needs to lay down some clear, public ethical guidelines about how and why it does what it does.

I trust the way they handle it, in part because I know who they are. Who’s WikiLeaks? Besides Mr Assange, I don’t know, and they’re not really telling. Do you know? If so, start a wiki about it.

Wonder how different this would have made the situation, agreed that nobody except Assange is known to the world, but what if that is the organisation policy?

Right now one persons motives are being doubted, if there were more than one then sceptics or critics would have questioned more motives.

This would also have given governments irked by leaks more people to make targets and drift the focus away from the actual issues at hand.

As of now there are five reputed media outlets apart from Wikileaks to make a choice from, it for the readers to pick their choice. There is raw data as well as filtered one available, make your choice and take a call.

In fact the readership of Wikileaks and others post disclosures will give an indication what people want.

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Riding on Support Assange seeks bail

Julian Assange’s extradition case comes up for hearing on Tuesday in London.

Ever since he has been arrested on December 7 though the Wikileaks revelations have been coming out steadily as promised by Assange, but the thump has gone missing.

More than the Leaks it’s the man behind them who has become the news, something which was predictable.

Celebrities supporting Assange, hacker group Anonymous bringing Pay Pal and other websites down, to Julian Assange profiles, backgrounder, his mothers reaction, his son’s statement have all made headlines.
The cables meanwhile, much to the relief of US government have taken backseat and will soon lose out the sheen, until something big is in pipeline even as I write.

Hours before the hearing, leaks have sort of vanished from airwaves, reams of newsprint reporting them have reduced and online the focus is more on Assange.

It’s my opinion that the leaked hero Assange won’t get respite anytime soon and the battle will drag on leading to the slow death of a promising tornado as far as news is considered.

Support
Interestingly this has led to Assange getting some sort of indirect support.

Assange mentioned in his editorial in the Australian, why he was only targeted and no one questioned the newspapers who were also publishing reports on Cables.

On similar lines Jeff Stein in his blog on Washington Post reported how ‘WikiLeaks’s Assange gains influential defenders.’

Stein’s blog raises echoes Assanges opinion but uses views of prominent American voices to back his claims.
Will the celebrity surety and celebrated voices bail Assange out in Long run remains to be seen.
On the face of it come Wednesady through Tuesday Assange will again hog some headlines.

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Dishing out Wikileaks

Wikileaks US diplomatic Cables dossier is indeed one of the biggest scoops of the recent times along with previous two Wikileak exposes.

Over 250,00o cables of raw data being dished out all containing potentially secret information translates into voluminous data house.

How do you manage the dump? What you do and how you dish it to sustain the interest in the information.

It’s been a week and only around 700 cables have been made public and the interest seems to be fading.

Though five media houses the guardian in the UK, The New York Times in the US, Sipigel in Germany, el paise in Spain and L Mode in France got the shared information from the whistleblower website, it’s interesting to see how they have worked out their distinctive ways to dish out the humongous information.

Information overdose

The way in which both the English language publications the Guardian and NYT have gone about it on web is to bombard users with information. In a way that becomes a bit too much for an average reader.

They without doubt have all the refined info and have developed separate sections. The Guardian website has been opening with WIkileaks and so is NYT for the last one week.

But it is very static in layout, at times a bit too heavy.

Be selective

Interestingly the Time magazine, which is not a part of the famous five publications, has been very innovative and dynamic in their approach.

They came later but devised a good strategy of using multimedia tools and videos to maximum effect. Two days after the leak they managed to get an Skype interview with Julian Assange all for 36 minutes.

They ran a story with a teaser the conversation will follow later.

A couple of days later they came with an edition on wikileaks and gave all the related elements though not the exact leaks in a fairly engaging manner.

Juice it up

There were video bytes of the skype conversation with Assange used the hilt.

Though the guardian did host the live chat but the skype video in parts makes sense. They have kept stories sharp with elements of colour to keep the reader engaged.

Though the issue is subjective, but a call need to be taken to make the information more engaging.

As I mentioned earlier that new age media is the tool to develop a story, these examples show how it can add to  the longevity and effectiveness of the story.

 

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