Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Wikileaks - The right to know

An undying Internet presence

I happened upon a website that got its DNS entry removed through a legal process by an aggrieved plaintiff in cahoots with an Internet Service Provider.

In what might appear egregious in its remit, the judge not only asked for Dynadot the domain hosting service to remove all traces of the site from all systems that could resolve the name, they also any resolution from showing anything but a blank page.

The law as many would agree is an ass which by inference means it can only be laden with so much before it collapses under the weight of the load.

So, today as we can see Wikileaks.org no more we see Wikileaks.be, for any resourceful organisation taking a site offline only offers an inconvenience and not complete Internet obliteration – reincarnation is reality in new technology.

The need for whistleblowers

Wikileaks provides a unique service as a repository of documents posted anonymously by whistleblowers in government or corporations.

Obviously, if organisations, governments, politicians and powerful organs of influence conducted their businesses with transparency and honestly within the bounds of legality, justice and fairness there would probably be no need for whistleblowers.

Now, this is no advocacy to break the law and countries with official secrets legal codes should for matters of national interest be able to govern what gets revealed to the general public – the only problem is that it gets abused and used to conceal criminality, illegality, subterfuge and injustice.

Kenya stands out

Going through the site, it is not surprising that Kenya which stands out as a paragon of corruption amongst political leaders and their cohorts features prominent.

As it transpired the newly elected government of Mwai Kibaki engaged Kroll Inc. to investigate issues of corruption concerning the looting of Kenya under government of Daniel arap Moi his predecessor.

They produced a 110-page report in 2004 which implicates the ex-President’s sons in activities that have both of them worth just under a billion pounds or $1.8 billion.

This report is either gathering dust or being used as political leverage since it is interesting that Daniel arap Moi came round to supporting Mwai Kibaki having been unseated by him 5 years earlier.

The Kenya page shows a number of whistleblower documents that should be explosive and having people indicted and convicted but systems in Africa sometimes do to seem to deliver justice to certain strata of the society.

Dearth of Nigerian detail

The Nigeria page does not show much apart from personalities like Dr. Dora Nkem Akunyili, who as the Director General of NAFDAC runs the gauntlet of corrupt organisations and interests who flood Nigerian markets with sub-standard drugs.

Her job is made harder by sometimes unresponsive federal ministers or demi-god thugs with undue political clout like Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, we have every faith that she would prevail.

Another name was that of Chris Anyanwu who was jailed for life for publishing information about an alleged coup plot in 1995, a sentence that was commuted 15 years and she was eventually released in June 1998.

However, when Amy Goodman revealed the collusion of the Chevron Corporation with the Nigerian Army – in that the company offered transportation and logistics support – that lead to the killing of two villagers in the Niger Delta in 1998 and number of shady liaisons left a good few people in the poorest light but it resulted in a documentary that won her the George Polk Award in 1998.

The HRW expose on the unholy alliance sealed in a contract between Godfather Chris Uba and Anambra State aspirant governor Chris Ngige would have been a prime document for Wikileaks.

No fear in revealing

Maintaining the possibly tenuous Nigerian link is Dr. Martha Coleman-Adebayo (An African-American with a seemingly Yoruba name - Adebayo). As an employee of the Environment Protection Agency she found out and revealed that a United States firm was poisoning African workers and families with toxic waste.

Rather than get accolades, she was harassed and severely discriminated against within the EPA, however, what transpired after winning her case against discrimination lead to the signing into law by President George W. Bush of the No FEAR Act 2002.

The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act 2002), seeks to prevent organisations or managers from engaging in unlawful discrimination or retaliation against whistleblowers.

The Right to Know - I

Once again, one has to be careful about the reasons for whistle-blowing and what is to be achieved by revealing such information. A writer for the Zimbabwean Financial Gazette wrote an article that appeared on allAfrica.com, the premise being the attacks on the right to know.

The article tackles a number of issues but in summary, one could say that if the power of political leadership derives from the people, they should have the right to know about the fitness of their leader for leadership and their ability to govern.

For instance, reporting about the health of the President where its seriousness can make the person incapable of performing their duties should be covered by access through the right-to-know; closer to home is the need to squelch the rumours about the health of President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria.

Dr. Beetroot had details of her alcoholism revealed as it appeared she jumped the queue for a liver transplant having been a public advocate against the dangers of alcoholism.

The judge in a case brought against the newspaper said, “This is a case where the need for the truth is, in fact, overwhelming. Indeed in this matter the personality involved as well as her status establishes her newsworthiness.”

The Right to Know - II

Truth, status and newsworthiness pertaining to matters that have public relations fa├žade far different from the concealed realities need scrutiny and should have the light shone on them.

  • In the end, Africa has a right to know how their vast resources are being commercialised but never affecting their livelihoods for the better and why.
  • They have a right to know how unscrupulous and corrupt global conglomerates under the guise of humanitarian aid poison them with drugs they would not dare test in their home countries.
  • They have a right to know how their politicians deviate from the service to democracy and their constituents towards their selfish ends of self-aggrandisement, corrupt enrichment and influence peddling.
  • They have a right to know that they should by merit and qualification be able to attain any goal and if that is not the case, they should know why and who is creating that unfair situation leading to tough sanctions against that practice.
  • They have a right to know how the electoral process ends up with results that are not representative of their voting. Some whistleblower electoral officers in Kenya came forward to reveal irregularities with the December 2007 collations.
  • If anything, they have the right to know the truth, the whole truth which does not prejudice valid national interest and nothing but the truth regardless of who it touches.

Wikileaks – a resource and repository

Basically, if we cannot obtain information of the sources about issues because of red tape, officialdom, corrupt interference or abuse of legal process, the only way to get at the truth would be through whistleblowers and they have Wikileaks to keep their identities whilst exposing rotten situations.

Support the crusade for the truth, support the message of Wikileaks in the global defence of sources and press freedom as a just, fair and importance cause.

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