An Arab WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks (an international group that publishes anonymously submitted secret government documents), would probably be an unwelcome guest in Cairo and much of Arab world. Paradoxically, the work of his organization, which has revealed hundreds of thousands of leaked military and intelligence reports on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, suggests that Assange sympathizes with Arab causes. Arab officials would undoubtedly fear that the Australian-born internet activist could become a people’s hero, or at least an inspiration for someone to create an Arab version of WikiLeaks that would expose the extent of injustice and persecution committed by Arab regimes.

WikiLeaks discloses secret documents in societies, like the United States, where access to information is much less restricted than in the Arab world and is preserved by the balance of power between pressure groups, political parties and the government. Furthermore, countries like the United States have media outlets which are strong, professional and represent different political views, and legislation that ensures state documents are de-classified after a certain period of time.

If such is the case in Western societies, yet whistleblowing groups still manage to expose secrets about their governments’ complicity in terrible abuses, then imagine what a hypothetical “Arab WikiLeaks” would reveal about our regimes? Think about all the secrets that can be uncovered in societies with no freedom of information to begin with, no mechanisms for the transfer of power, obsolete legislation, uncompetitive political systems, and media outlets that do not respect professional standards and easily succumb to political pressures. In our societies, even matters as innocuous as the budget for a sewage drain pipe are treated as classified information and the state generally sees the press as a conveyor of pernicious ideas and a forum for gossip.

Arab countries are just the place for the kind of work done by Assange and his group. Every public employee in Egypt comes across dozens of documents–implicating officials in bribes, questionable bids and tenders, legal violations, election fraud, and shady deals–which the people know nothing about. Only an Arab WikiLeaks could expose such high-level corruption and at the same time guarantee that the identities of their sources remain anonymous.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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