1/30/12

Wikileaks: A Study on Whistleblowing and the Media

Don DeGabrielle, Lucy Dalglish, David Adler, Tom Forestier
Well, I don't know about you, but  I had a GREAT week-end. Aside for a fun-filled movie marathon (Red Tails, The Artist and Hugo), I had the privilege of attending the 26th Law & the Media Program Examines WikiLeaks.

The first event of the year, the session featured Julian Assange's lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson and New York Times Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Eric Schmitt.

Julian Assange's English lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, kicked off the session via Skype.

For those of you who are unaware, he is one of the top legal minds of our time--it was a privilege to hear him speak. Australian born, he holds dual citizenship in Australia and England. He is a barrister and a Queen's Counsel who has handled libel, human rights and media matters involving well-known publications, artists and writers, including Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.

Robertson's position on Wikileaks was that the public has a right to know and that Assange was only acting as a reporter in conveying unsolicited, unclassified documents. He proposed that governments need to create policy to ensure that documents are properly classified and then classify them.

Next up was Schmitt, who talked about meeting with and interviewing Assange when the first trove of diplomatic cables were leaked by WikiLeaks. Schmitt was on the journalistic team of four international newspapers that were given the documents for review.

A panel then discussed the issues surrounding whistleblowers, sources and reporters. The panel included Lucy Dalglish, the Executive Director of the Reporters Committee on FreedomDon DeGabrielle, a Fulbright attorney and former U.S. Attorney; and David Adler, a federal criminal defense attorney and former CIA agent. Winstead's managing shareholder and media attorney Tom Forestier moderated.

The session was targeted towards reporters and raised issues about the reliability of sources, maintaining a source's confidentiality and what constitutes the status of a reporter. It was a fascinating discussion, particularly at the end. These folks who had been in the trenches, discussed how leaks, in this day of instant technology, are so much more likely to occur. Interestingly, all three panelists hearkened back to the days of Watergate when the reporters' idea of protecting sources were parking lots meetings and notes in flower pots.

The event was held at the South Texas College of Law Saturday morning and co-sponsored by the Houston Bar Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and The Press Club of Houston.

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