WikiLeaks, Secrecy and Freedom of Information: The Case of the United Kingdom
Brevini, Hintz, McCurdy (eds), Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism and Society, Pallgrave MacMillan, 2013
13 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2013 Last revised: 8 Sep 2013
Date Written: March 29, 2013
The bulk releases of internal information about US military and foreign affairs by WikiLeaks were a shock to American officials in their scope and scale. However, so far, despite the public anger showed by the US government and immediate action against the lone alleged leaker, no new legislation restricting free expression rights has been adopted by Congress and signed by the president.
Clearly, the WikiLeaks saga has triggered a vigorous debate far beyond the borders of the United States. In the United Kingdom, where Julian Assange has been very active – given his collaboration with UK-based news outlets and his participation to in numerous public discussions – WikiLeaks has renewed the debate on the balance between secrecy and openness and the prospects for reform.
Because the United Kingdom presents a significantly different appreciation of openness and freedom of speech when compared to the United States, we decided to explore what would happen if a similar release of information were to occur in the United Kingdom. Hence, this chapter sets out to explore the comprehensive system of secrecy engrained in the British government, the legislative framework that characterizes it, and the past and current efforts made to promote a culture of openness.
Keywords: national security, freedom of information, state secrets, transparency, Wikileaks, official secrets
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