Yesterday I attended a forum on “Wikileaks Saga: The Malaysian Chapter”. It was a small intimate crowd, with 3 speakers Jac Sm Kee, Sonia Randhawa & Edmund Bo from Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ).

The topic of Wikileaks and Julian Assange is a well-known subject to everyone, but the impact of Wikileaks on future of information seems to be the interesting point here. Personally, I do not care much about the impact of Wikileaks in Malaysia shores. To me, a few snobbish Singaporean officers bitching about our country should be taken with a dose of laughter. It’s just their opinion, not factual encounter with evidence.

The bigger picture I see is the world has changed. With Wikileaks and other new emerged whistle-blower sites like Openleaks, it could pose a threat to the information and informant itself as there’s no universal protection and ethics for such channel of information dissemination.

First, the cyber world is unlike the real world. There’s certain ethical rules and procedures that the mainstream media and journalists must abide in order for them to prove the worthy of the source credibility. Although Wikileaks did a smart move by partnering big news agencies such as Al-Jazeera, The Guardian and New York Times, other whistleblower sites may not have the luxury to do so. The thing is, there’s no standardize or universal binding law that can monitor sources credibility, it makes it harder when a lot of these sites are exposing such high level confidential documents.

Second, the whistleblower itself. The forgotten hero in the Wikileaks saga is not Julian Assange, it’s Bradley Manning. A young guy doing the right thing. But in the process, he risked his life, and now is sitting in jail. This beg the question of whether there’s any law that truly protect the lives of these informants. If a self-proclaimed democracy like the United Stated is jailing its citizen of exposing the atrocities of the Iraq war, then what about other developing nations that has fragile laws on freedom of information.

Third, the right of government and corporate institutions themselves for privacy. It easier to pin-point the right for freedom of speech when the world is exposed to the brutality of war in Iraq and other hidden agenda that will harm the public interest. But what about the countless gossiping among diplomats on other countries? It seems that the diplomatic cable leaks pose more laughable red faces than protecting the public interest rights. I mean, opinion from US officials should not be taken as facts, in fact it will hurt the relations between nations, like what is happening now between Malaysia and Singapore. Besides, these diplomats are merely doing their job, reporting on behalf of their government.

Forth, the safety of the internet users themselves. The new term “Hacktivists” started with the attacks on major corporations whom had stopped their services to Wikileaks. The attacks were severe to the extend where corporation websites hacked and brought downed. In fact, this will only create a fear among the public as the internet is a free zone without any regulations. Any anonymous internet users can spy or hack any sites they dislike which will only reduce the freedom of cyber net itself. The non-consensus on freedom of speech and the issue of privacy, will only trigger unending discourse on this issue.

In a nutshell, the emergence of this new form of Whistle blowing sites is a change that the world must embrace and be prepared. I think we should have a standardize and universal protection on informants, on journalism ethical law and procedures, and on the top-secret resources itself. Wikileaks is already the beginning in a new era where the mightiest are the ones who rule the virtual space.

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