Civil society

Wikileaks publishes new stack of documents, this time on Syria

Yesterday, Wikileaks announced in a press conference in London that it was ready to commence the leaking of over 2.4 million emails originating from the Syrian regime.

Wikileaks, which specialises in digital leaking of government documents, admitted to not having been able to verify every document separately. However, the NGO added that it was ‘statistically confident that the vast majority of the data are what they purport to be’.

The leaking of the Syrian documents is the largest operation carried out by Wikileaks up until now. The leaking of US diplomatic correspondence in 2010, which has come to be known under the name of “cablegate”, entailed only just over 10% of the amount of documents. Wikileaks said it expected the leak would embarrass both Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad and his adversaries. Meanwhile, its figurehead Julian Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy in London awaiting an application for political asylum.

The leaking of government information has, over the past years, attracted wide attention in the media but it is often overlooked as another form of government transparency (namely externally forced) that. Academics are not universally enthousiastic about the phenomenon of popular transparency. Last year, FOI expert Alasdair Roberts published a critical article on Wikileaks and forced transparency.

In the EU too, leaking continues to be a frequent occurrence. When some time ago the Dutch Senate published a document on its website that had been leaked by civil rights organisation Statewatch, the Commission threatened it with legal action. –MH

Click here to read more about the recent Wikileaks leak

Click here to go to the Syria files on the Wikileaks website


Hungarian Journalist Prosecuted for Publishing Leaked Government-EU Communication

That the transparency of relations between member states and EU Institutions can sometimes have unexpected and extreme consequences is proven by a current transparency row in Hungary.

Journalist Attila Mong recently published a letter from EU Commission President Barrosso to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán of 19 December 2011 on his blog, and now faces prosecution. The Hungarian government interprets the publication of this leaked document a violation of the PM’s right of privacy of communication. Prosecution could lead to several years’ imprisonment.

Although the leaking of the document concerns an alleged offense under Hungarian law, several international advocacy organisations, among them Access Info Europe, the n-ost Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe and the South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) have expressed their concern. They have pointed out that the pending case creates an atmosphere of fear and that the Hungarian government’s position is not tenable under European law. –MH

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