Wikileaks controversy

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

Recently Wikileaks found itself embroiled in a fresh controversy. Some of the US critics claim that Wikileaks only picks on the US and other western democracies. Their opponents reason that Wikileaks is only as good as its sources of information. But even if there is certain preference for exposing the US and western countries — something that so far has not been truly demonstrated by critics — wouldn´t such preference be justified?

It is a fact that the USA and most of the western powers are real democracies, where most human rights are truly respected. Criticism of the authorities there is well tolerated and in fact Wikileaks would not be conceivable in many other countries.

It is also a fact that, say, Turkmenistan or Thailand are not real democracies, and many if not most human rights there are not at all respected. Criticism of the authorities there is not tolerated, and critics might find themselves in jail pretty quickly for doing a fraction of what Wikileaks considers its mission.

But let´s consider implications of the actions, especially beyond their borders, of the US versus, say, Turkmenistan. As a consequence of actions of the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, and earlier in Serbia/Kosovo, thousands of people were killed and many more were displaced or made destitute. (By now, probably, many more people died from the US force, than in hands of the regimes the US sought to topple.) To those dead and to their families, it does not matter that the US is one of the freest countries in the world. It only matters that in their eyes the US forces murdered their loved ones.

And how many people were killed by unfree Turkmenistan beyond its borders? Zero, correct. The fact that the government of Turkmenistan may be not very nice towards its own people may not speak in its favor, equally as the fact that people of Turkmenistan continue to put up with such government may not speak in their favor, either.

But the implications for the rest of the world are clear: there is much more potential damage and life loss inflicted by the free and democratic US than by unfree and undemocratic Turkmenistan. And this potential to inflict damage warrants that extra bit of attention from Wikileaks and the like watchdogs.

In the free speech terminology, it is in the public interest to subject to scrutiny someone in a position of authority. The US certainly is and regards itself to be in a position of considerable international authority. As such, it should be flattered, not angered by the interest its actions generate.