Sunday, 17 July 2011

Verbal Diarrhoea #6

"I would prefer not to live in a nanny state. I would prefer to be able to receive all shades and colours of opinion ... so that I can make informed decisions about what's going on in the world, rather than to have my view shaped by the rather limited information which is being made available to me. And I hope most intelligent and thinking people would be in the same position."
Claims Mark Stephens, human rights lawyer

Mark Stephens speaking at the University of Hong Kong. Pic by Jonathan Wong

NOTE: The above statement is NOT verbal diarrhoea
It was used to hopefully keep readers on their toes!

The only negative point is that there are indeed otherwise intelligent and educated people who prefer living in a nanny state. Those kinds of people are either the control freaks at the very top or are just plain lazy to think anymore so long as they are living comfortably and are better off than the majority.


Reference: Part-time staff at WikiLeaks 'journalists' (SCMP; paywall)
Renowned lawyer Mark Stephens defines the role of the hundreds of employees who publish information on the whistle-blowing website
Chris Ip and Natalie Ornell
Jun 10, 2011

WikiLeaks is as much a media organisation as any publisher and its hundreds of part-time staff - many unknown - are legitimate journalists, says the lawyer defending the founder of the whistle-blowing website's founder, Julian Assange, against sex-crime allegations.

"They receive data from members of the public, they verify that data, they get comment on it, they edit it, they put it into stories," Mark Stephens said at the University of Hong Kong yesterday. "They're certainly publishers, they're certainly editors and I would argue they're also journalists."

One of the most sought after proponents for freedom of speech, Stephens has argued in courts from the United States and Iraq to Singapore.

He also lamented the lack of a full freedom of information law in Hong Kong. The Code on Access to Information of 1995 is often criticised as an inadequate measure to ensure government transparency.

"I think it is a great sadness that in 1776 Sweden passed the first freedom of information law and here we are in 2011 and Hong Kong still hasn't got one. I drafted one for Romania seven years ago and they are an essential tool to openness and reassurance in government," Stephens said.

On whether there was any value in keeping state secrets, he pointed to a quip by Richard Dearlove, a former head of MI6, the British secret intelligence service.

"He (Dearlove) said that governments need secrets but not as many as you would think," Stephens said. "I would add, `and for not as long as you may think'.

"A good law on secrecy is the government should have those secrets that it genuinely needs to run the state efficiently and in our interest.

"I think it can't have just loads and loads of secrets because it's embarrassing if the information got out. That's not good enough."

If the information did not threaten someone's life, Stephens said, "the journalist has an obligation, almost unfettered, to publish."

Australian Assange is in London fighting extradition to Sweden.

WikiLeaks, founded in 2006, first gained world attention for releasing the "collateral murder" video showing a US helicopter opening fire on Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

According to Stephens, once information is released into the public sphere, it is up to people to decide its importance. "I would prefer not to live in a nanny state," he said. "I would prefer to be able to receive all shades and colours of opinion ... so that I can make informed decisions about what's going on in the world, rather than to have my view shaped by the rather limited information which is being made available to me. And I hope most intelligent and thinking people would be in the same position."

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