Who to trust and who to fear.
IF you found out about major corporate or government misconduct, what would you do? Blowing the whistle is the only moral option.
A whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal misconduct occurring in a government department, a public or private organisation or a company.
The alleged misconduct may be a violation of a law, rule, regulation or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/ safety violations and corruption.
Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally to other people within the accused organisation or externally to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues.
Whistleblowers are commonly seen as selfless martyrs for public interest and organisational accountability; others view them as telltales or snitches, solely pursuing personal glory and fame. In any case, it’s a precarious position to be in. As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s predicament illustrates, whistleblowers are not always seen as heroes. Now, with global interest in publishing leaked documents of misconduct, Assange ( pictured) has warned whistleblowers to steer clear of rival whistleblowing sites set up by mainstream media outlets, saying that almost no website other than his own can be trusted.
The Australian freedom of information activist said people considering leaking sensitive information could not trust confidential sites such as a new one created by the Wall Street Journal.
He said WikiLeaks was one of just a few sites that could be guaranteed to protect its sources.
‘‘ You have to look at the people who are running the organisation; what is their history and their experience?’’ Assange asked at a London ceremony awarding him a gold medal from the Sydney Peace Institute.
‘‘ Have they stood up to pressure before and have they managed themselves well before?
‘‘ There are almost no organisations other than us that have that track record.’’
Whether or not you consider Assange to be a whistleblower with the public interest in mind, quite differently to the News of the World journalists with their phone-hacking debacle, the WikiLeaks founder sees skewed perspective in coverage.
‘‘ When organisations like The Guardian write more than 100 articles on the News of the World being involved in putting in default passwords into voice mailboxes – because that is what we are actually talking about here – they are taking space from other things and they also have other agendas at work,’’ he said.
‘‘ The other agendas at work are attacking newspaper rivals in the same market, it is their biggest rival in the same market; it should be obvious to everyone.’’
Perhaps the most truthful coverage of leaked documents is in the documents themselves.