WikiLeaks was quick in responding to the criticism made by The New York Times on August 31. The assertions that the anti-secrecy platform was either willingly or unwillingly used by the Russian government was dismissed as ‘a conspiracy theory,’ according to The Hill on September 1. The reporting was denounced as false and not journalism. However, as journalists we do not only have a right to question the how and the why of WikiLeaks operations – we have an obligation to do it.
WikiLeaks does not examine and fact-check the information they receive. They just dump it on the world. Serious journalism is about making sure you have your facts straight and you check information you may receive from other sources. The journalists from Süddeutsche Zeitung, which received terabytes of information from an anonymous source in the case of the Panama Papers, adhered to a strict code of journalistic ethics and fact-checked everything twice in ordrer to make as sure as possible that their data were correct.
WikiLeaks claim to have “a perfect record of document authentication” but it is unclear how the organization vets the information it receives for accuracy, according to The Hill on September 1. This makes them vulnerable to foreign Intelligence services like the Russian one. It is probably not WikiLeaks’ intention to help the Russian government, which they have denounced for being authoritarian. However, when they time and time again divulge information damaging especially to the U.S. and European governments without being critical thereof, they may unwillingly assist the Russian government.
Organizations like WikiLeaks perform an important service in making the public aware of important public information clouded in secrecy. But the information should always be of public interest and be fact-checked in order not to be used as misinformation. It is our role as journalists to sort through the myriads of information and assist a busy public audience in finding to the core of truth.