European journalism interesting practices and innovative legislations

Flagship proposals

Concrete political proposals in support of a civic and social European journalism. Come and comment them !


Views on media and media policies. Do you agree with them?

In the news

Events to attend and news to share

In French

Articles et propositions en français

Home » Featured

Brusselsleaks: Can we live in an open society?

Submitted by on March 9, 2011 – 15:30No Comment

UK/US fears over Brus­sels’ chal­lenge to Anglo-Saxon model of mar­kets.” This is Brus­sel­sleaks’ first leak pub­lished in the late Feb­ru­ary. But it is in fact “a mir­ror from [Wik­ileaks] Cable­leaks”, said Brus­sel­sleaks spokesper­son[it] also acted as a test, [Brus­sel­sleaks is] still fine tun­ing a few thing as well as talk­ing to some legal experts to ensure [they] work the best way pos­si­ble.”

Brus­sel­sleaks is a new “place to cen­tral­ize intel­li­gence gath­ered on the inner-workings of the Euro­pean Union”, as explained on their web­site. A lot of deci­sions that impact the whole globe are taken in Brus­sels and many of them hap­pen “behind closed doors” of the Coun­cil or of any other meet­ing of Euro­pean lead­ers. Those deci­sions “are made in secret and it is the right for any demo­c­ra­tic pub­lic to find out how those deci­sions were made”, explains Brus­sel­sleaks. For Brus­sels Pro­gramme Director-Missouri School of Jour­nal­ism and Euro­pean jour­nal­ist Gareth Hard­ing, “diplo­macy is based on the set­tle­ment of secrecy and it has to be. Polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions take place behind closed doors and it should remain so.”

A new inde­pen­dent body based on anonymity

Brus­sel­sleaks is a team of jour­nal­ists, activists, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als and they claim that it should become clear that they are not from any lobby or polit­i­cal group within a few months.

Brus­sel­sleaks spokesper­son pointed out: “the most impor­tant thing for us is to ensure the doc­u­ments [they will receive] are gen­uine, which will be the main chal­lenge”, espe­cially because peo­ple will want to stay anonymous.

The basis of Brusselsleaks’s ide­ol­ogy is founded on anonymity. On their web­site you can sub­mit “some infor­ma­tion in a com­pletely secure – and anony­mous, if pre­ferred – way”. But it seems clear that peo­ple will not give their name if they give any impor­tant secret infor­ma­tion. Researcher at GRAPAX 2 (Research Group in Sup­port of Peace Poli­cies) and PhD stu­dent at ULB (Uni­ver­sité libre de Brux­elles) Sid­ney Leclercq: “I do not imag­ine some­one pub­lish­ing secret doc­u­ments on the web­site giv­ing his name or any other pri­vate infor­ma­tion that could iden­tify them.”

An old ide­ol­ogy of pub­lish­ing secret documents

Noth­ing is really rev­o­lu­tion­ary in the ide­ol­ogy of Wik­ileaks and Brus­sel­sleaks. “The pub­li­ca­tion of secret doc­u­ments has always been a tool of for­eign pol­icy. When nego­ti­a­tions seem to be blocked, states often pub­lish secret doc­u­ments try­ing to change things. It was like that in Copen­hagen in Decem­ber 2009 at the Cli­mate Sum­mit for instance”, explains Sid­ney Leclercq.

On the other hand, scan­dals also appeared because peo­ple wanted to expose an impor­tant fact even if they were not directly involved in the event. Remem­ber Water­gate? A cou­ple of jour­nal­ists inves­ti­gated what seemed to be a sim­ple bur­glary. With the help of an anony­mous whis­tle blower who turned out to be FBI Asso­ciate Direc­tor Mark Felt, they unearthed such a scan­dal that the Pres­i­dent of the United States resigned.

Wik­ileaks’ nov­elty is that you, now, have a kind of secure plat­form that helps you to share and reveal secret information.

In this new sys­tem of pub­li­ca­tion, the result can be pos­i­tive as well as neg­a­tive. “The goal of the pub­li­ca­tion should not be to pub­lish a leak because it is a leak but because it is rel­e­vant”, explains Sid­ney Leclercq. Wik­ileaks’ aim should be to show that some­thing is wrong, to reveal some­thing ille­gal or immoral and to make lead­ers face their responsibilities.

Gareth Hard­ing explains, “absolute free­dom of infor­ma­tion does not exist and I do not think it helps polit­i­cally (…) I have been here in Brus­sels for many years and I can count the num­ber of real scoops, real exclu­sives, sto­ries that really made the dif­fer­ence on one hand.”

Sid­ney Leclercq speak­ing of the pro­vi­sion of trans­parency thanks to Wik­ileaks

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion jus­ti­fies the ideology

While Wik­ileaks always pub­lished its leaks on its web­site, man­agers decided to work only with five news­pa­pers around the world for the newest infor­ma­tion. El Pais, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The New York Times, and The Guardian have received more than 250.000 leaked US diplo­matic cables from Wikileaks.

Wik­ileaks decided to work this way to let jour­nal­ists ana­lyze and process all those infor­ma­tion before pub­lish­ing them and to bring infor­ma­tion to a pub­lic they would not be able to reach with­out tra­di­tional medias.

The prob­lem linked to the five-newspaper process is that some use­ful infor­ma­tion could be unpub­lished because they seem less inter­est­ing for some news­pa­pers. If there was use­ful Hun­gar­ian infor­ma­tion, it could stay buried just because there is no Hun­gar­ian news­pa­per or because it could appear less saleable for the five dailies.

Wik­ileaks, Brus­sel­sleaks, and now?

The mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of new e-leaks would be a good thing to jus­tify their ide­ol­ogy. “The more leaks you have, the more the ide­ol­ogy is jus­ti­fied. But at the same time it makes each of them less vis­i­ble”, ana­lyzes Sid­ney Leclercq.

Sub­se­quently, another prob­lem could appear; if there are too many e-leaks and if they are based on an orga­ni­za­tion or such a secluded part of the soci­ety, like a new e-leak for each coun­try or even within a com­pany or else, that could cre­ate prob­lems. An e-leak is not pos­si­ble within a com­pany because “peo­ple would be afraid to loose their job, but in a coun­try, why not?”, explains Brus­sel­sleaks spokesman.

“A com­pletely trans­par­ent soci­ety is not pos­si­ble. Every­one wants to keep a secret part in his life. If every­thing is vis­i­ble to every­one, then social con­tacts could suf­fer from it. This trans­par­ent soci­ety is not a good solu­tion”, explains Sid­ney Leclercq. Gareth Hard­ing also explains that some part of the soci­ety should stay pri­vate; “hav­ing worked in pol­i­tics myself, I real­ized that there is some­thing that best should stay private.”

Gareth Hard­ing speak­ing about a com­pletely pub­lic society

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Gareth Hard­ing thinks Wik­ileaks is not journalism

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Related posts:

  1. : explain­ing Europe with videos!
  2. Cit­i­zens for Europe: ‘Giv­ing a voice to the Euro­pean civil society’
  3. Live blog­ging a EU Coun­cil (Video)
  4. Live blog­ging a Euro­pean Coun­cil: a new step forward
  5. Euro­pean Coun­cil live on Twitter

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.