朱利安•阿桑奇是记者吗?

Katie Engelhart写到,维基解密网站在2010年发布了第一批美国国务院机密电报,如果这个揭秘网站的创始人朱利安•阿桑奇能够被当作为记者,那么他应当受到宪法第一修正案的保护。

2010年2月,作为机密泄露的主要途径的维基解密网站公布了美国国务院一系列机密电报中的首批文件。这些文件来自美国驻世界各地的274个领事馆和大使馆,包含了驻在国及其领导人的机密报告。文件据说是由前美国陆军军官布拉德利·曼宁(因此受审,尚未判决)泄露的。最终,在迄今为止世界最大的机密文件泄露事件中,有超过25万份电报被公诸于众。截止2010年底,这些电报被报界广泛刊登,成为维基解密和五家主要报纸交易的一部分。美国防部长罗伯特·盖茨相信,这种文件的大量倾倒是“极其令人尴尬的事情”。其他人则选择了“威胁国家安全”这种词 儿。

自那以后,这一幕——被称为“ 电报门”(参照1970年代水门事件丑闻)——使朱利安·阿桑奇成了名人。但这使他成为记者了吗?这个问题现在成了迫切需要辩论的核心:谁有资格成为 “记者”?在网络时代,构成新闻业务的东西是什么?如果阿桑奇是个记者,他就能享受到许多国家授予职业团体的某种权利。比如在美国,记者可以获得来自政府消息来源的信息,享受一系列特权,通常受到第一修正案的保护。但是,如果朱利安不是记者,自行其事,就不能受到新闻自由的保护。在美国,关于专业的界限应该在哪儿的辩论是个老问题了(回顾1971年五角大楼文件泄密案)。但是最近这倒成了新的紧迫问题,美国有许多检察官要求法院审判阿桑奇,因他卷入了“电报门”事件。

评论家指责,在网上“大量倾倒”文件不是新闻行为,他们只把阿桑奇称为“消息来源”。最极端的反对派把“维基解密”贴上了恐怖主义组织的标 签,这与一般的新闻来源大不相同。(前美国副总统候选人莎拉·帕林把阿桑奇与基地组织相提并论),但是像新闻调查中心这类的团体则承认阿桑奇是他们的一员。擅长第一修正案的许多律师和美国时事评论员也同意这种分类,坚称“区分职业记者和那些传播消息、思想和舆论以博得更多观众的其他人的界限,随着网络的出现已经 大大消失了。”

(阿桑奇本人更喜欢“组织和指导其他记者的发行人兼总编辑”这一头衔。)

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评论 (5)

读者须知:自动翻译由Google翻译提供,虽然可以反映作者大意,但不一定能提供精准的译意。

  1. I have been an activist for good causes for many years; I have a degree of ambivalence regarding it all. I believe that in some cases Julian Assange may have been wrong according to the written letter of the law. However surly the law should be able to accommodate fairness and justice. I must confess to being a moron and not having studied these issues devoutly. The more I have seen during my campaigning the more I have learned that the law is often the plaything of the rich. Particularly where the United States or big corporations are involved. I remember the Vietnam war and Daniel Ellsberg’s whistle blowing about the true horror and hopelessness of that war. Has time past : Anne Machon, Katharine Gunn, Craig Murry, and a multitude of others have spoken out regarding the ubiquitous horrors they had discovered.
    I used to write silly campaign letters to ‘tin pot despots’ in countries I had to look for on a big map; now I see evil all around me I have written to Julian Assange many times and have sent Postal Orders , but the Postal Orders have been stopped. The media has changed, few people trust the media or anything official. We are seeing much unrest.

  2. I fail to see what journalism has to do with it–except in the US? No profession should have special privileges. Either all have the same imprescriptible right of free speech or none have.
    As to Julian Assange, his case rests entirely on whether he knew he was disseminating stolen materials. If yes, then he should be charged accordingly. If not, then he was free to disseminate them in the belief they were in the public domain.
    Of course, if he were sensitive about the provenance of his materials, he should have inquired before scattering them all over the world. The evidence suggests that he was intent solely on embarrassing the American authorities. If that is the case, it is up to the Americans to charge him with some offence or other. But then, if he has not committed an offence in the country from which he disseminated the materials, he should not be subject to extradition. But we all know how politicians and governments behave when they want to appease or offend others.

  3. Fair point, Jorge, I was sloppy with Ellsberg and used his name as a shorthand for “disseminator of documents” rather than inside whistleblower.

    Ellsberg of course was arrested and very likely could have gone to jail or worse. The last time I saw him speak, last year at HLS, he talked about a plot by Nixon adviser Howard Hunt to “neutralize” Ellsberg, including having Cuban waiters drop acid into Ellsberg’s soup before he was to speak at a benefit event.

    I agree, Jorge, that Assange’s sneering public attitude has limited his ability to be perceived as a public hero. But is he a Woodward? He certainly disseminated a lot of information. But to my mind it was a glut, without much investigative or reportorial about it. (i.e. without much judgment or value added.) And none of it was as earth-shattering, at least in direct political effects, as the revelations of Woodstein (or, for that matter, Ellsberg) — so I’d hesitate to place Assange above them.

  4. I’m going to start my comment by agreeing, partially, with David. I’m not certain that it’s useful, or desirable, to distinguish between free speech and a specific journalistic privilege. But by that logic (and to return to Katie’s point), why isn’t Assange a journalist? He probably has little resemblance to your beat reporter, but how different is he from the editor or owners of the New York Times in terms of disseminating information? I don’t think Assange is wrong in asserting that hypothetically, although no one would want him as their editor. I think he is a journalist, rather than some sort of whistleblower or terrorist.

    He’s also not a Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was a definitely whistleblower, and in the same vein you could probably apply that label to Bradley Manning and other insiders who put their necks on the line. The two have shared different fates for the same reason: whether or not it was politically desirable to prosecute them for releasing classified information. What constitutes sensitive information for government officials is based on highly irrational logic. If you are government or military personnel, however, there are restrictions on your behavior that make releasing information from the inside illegal. Bradley Manning could have got the death penalty for what he did because he’s a soldier. Ellsberg, I’m sure, wondered for a while whether he’d go to jail (I think he may have even said so when Fred Logevall had him speak at Cornell my first year).

    The fourth estate, however, has an obligation to dredge up the stuff that the government wants to keep classified. In this regard, one has to wonder how much Assange’s megalomania turned off potential defenders in the media. Clearly his best defense is to be seen as an investigative journalist of sorts. But NYT / DS /etc were certainly turned off by reckless decisions he made (such as revealing sources in cases where it would endanger their lives), and of course by his later sexual indiscretions.

    I can’t help but think that the process of disseminating all the classified material that Wikileaks had gathered is ultimately what soured the professional and public perception of Assange. Ultimately he released classified documents in order to inform the public of what the U.S. government (and others) we up to. When we describe in one sentence what happened, isn’t he closer to a Novak, Woodward or even an Herbert Matthews than anyone else? Take away the sneering, nasty megalomaniac and focus just on his actions, and I see the most wildly successful piece of investigative journalism in history.

  5. Katie, within the context of “journalism,” it’s hard to label Assange a journalist. He’s more like Daniel Ellsberg than Carl Bernstein. But the solution is not to expand the definition — legal, lay or otherwise — of “journalism.” Because if speech is a right, whether or not a particular citizen is a “journalist” shouldn’t matter.

    If speech is a right, then all citizens should have so-called journalistic privilege. Speech rights (and derivative rights like press and religion) are universal, and shouldn’t be contingent on whether a citizen is a “journalist” or a “cleric.” It’s dangerous for governments to draw lines among “journalists” and “non-journalists,” (or any of the other categories you mentioned). It amounts to governments deciding who may and may not speak. This line-drawing — and the attendant situational government privilege-granting it entails — seems antithetical to the notion of speech as a “right.”

    Even so, in this particular case, your concern with “applying the law in a lopsided fashion” seems misplaced. I can’t say (at least, not briefly) whether or not Assange’s actions ought to be criminalized — or whether he’d have a valid First Amendment defense even if they were (the U.S. Government seems intent on his extradition, so let’s assume U.S. law at least for my sake). But Wikileaks’ original publication of classified material is qualitatively and legally different from newspapers’ ex-post publication of content that Wikileaks had already made public.

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