WikiWhat? Al Jazeera leaks too

Photo: WikiMedia Commons

Al Jazeera and The Guardian began releasing nearly 1,700 files yesterday in the largest release of leaked files since WikiLeaks began its release of U.S. diplomatic cables in November.

The files, dubbed “The Palestine Papers,” expose more than a decade of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Al Jazeera’s webpage introducing the files describes what they will disclose.

Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:

  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

The papers were leaked anonymously, but directly to Al Jazeera. The organization does not plan to disclose the source.

Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

I posted last week about WikiLeaks losing its monopoly in the world of anonymous leaking organizations. However, traditional media organizations, The Palestine Papers show, have never fallen off the map.

With the media craze around WikiLeaks, The Palestine Papers are glass of icewater to the face of all of us who forgot that traditional, mainstream media outlets can (and will) publish leaked documents as well.

The question here isn’t “why did this leak happen?” – every leaker has their own personal set of motivations – but why Al Jazeera? The news organization based in Qatar has a strong reputation for editorial independence, but so does WikiLeaks. Plus, the latter is in the public eye far more than Al Jazeera recently.

Perhaps the chaos and controversy surrounding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange drove this source to seek another outlet for the documents. Despite this controversy, the information being leaked by WikiLeaks recently has not been proven untrue and the trustworthiness of the organization has not been compromised by Julian Assange’s questionable sexual endeavors.

It will be interesting to see as these stories unfold how the publisher of the documents causes the coverage to differ from that of information disclosed by WikiLeaks.

An often-mentioned difference between WikiLeaks and traditional, mainstream media outlets is that traditional outlets often write stories with excerpts of or references to original documents, but do not post the actual documents. In this case, though, Al Jazeera is releasing entire documents. A practice that may become common in the wake of WikiLeaks’ methods.

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