Journalistic Integrity and Democratic Citizen Duty

Wikleaks is being lambasted for digging up something newsworthy and then giving it to the people. Who is doing the basting? The media, oddly, who couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves. I can’t tell if it’s because they’re angry that they didn’t dig deep enough to actually find the same info or if it’s because they’re owned and operated by the governments that they’re supposed to be keeping an eye on. Either way, Wikileaks gets my vote of approval.

Some people think that governments should be above reproach, but that’s bunk. Your duty as a citizen of a democracy is to question what your leaders do and hold them accountable. Too long it has not been the case and democratic citizens have turned a blind, uncaring eye to what their governments do. They have sat idly by while the civil liberties of others were eroded, then raised a weak, strangled cry of protest when their own were threatened, too little, too late.

Your right as a citizen of a democracy is to vote for leaders that do what the people want. Political duty was at one point just that, a duty. Now it’s a career and fat-cat politicians have lost sight of their duty and turned it into their career. That was not how it was supposed to be. It was meant to be similar to other duties like military service: do your time, return to your farm, legal practice, tavern or whatever.

With special interest groups comes money and that means politicians can now line their pockets with cash instead of doing their duty. This is the real corruption of government.

The same goes for journalists who simply do what they’re told to do by their employers, afraid of losing their jobs. That’s not journalism, that’s being a lemming. Journalism is meant to uncover the truth and report on it. When government interferes in that, it is called censorship. When wealthy owners of media companies buddy up with politicians and guide the reporting of their media to hide the truth, sensationalize and mis-report or under-report the truth, they too are censoring the media.

In the case of Wikileaks, they do an excellent job of uncovering the truth and reporting it to the people, that is what journalism is about. Some attack them for endangering military and other personnel. They don’t realize that Wikileaks did try to contact governments in order to find out what they should redact. The governments failed to respond and so Wikileaks took it upon themselves to redact whatever they thought might be harmful to any nation’s security (go do some reading there and you’ll see all manner of names, etc have been removed from documents). Yes, some of the recent releases are damaging to the reputations of individuals and nations, but they are public servants and governments. What they do should be available to the people who pay them. Anything you do while on the clock for your employer is subject to scrutiny by them, is it not? Why should it be any different for people in government?

I applaud the people at Wikileaks for their bravery and their willingness to do such an obviously dangerous job. I am certain there are numerous people out there who will fail to see the value of what they do and instead take a more barbaric, violent path instead of logically thinking things through. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the society we live in. Not everyone is clever enough to see the truth or seek it and many resort to violence and vulgarity as weapons of choice, because they have few others available to them.

Here are some things to consider:

Democratic citizens recognize that they not only have rights, they have responsibilities. They recognize that democracy requires an investment of time and hard work – a government of the people demands constant vigilance and support by the people.

…respecting the rights of those with differing points of view are also examples of citizen responsibility.

There is a saying in free societies: you get the government you deserve. For democracy to succeed, citizens must be active, not passive, because they know that the success or failure of the government is their responsibility, and no one else’s. In turn, government officials understand that all citizens should be treated equally and that bribery has no place in a democratic government.

In a democratic system, people unhappy with their leaders are free to organize and peacefully make the case for change – or try to vote those leaders out of office at established times for elections.

Democracies need more than an occasional vote from their citizens to remain healthy. They need the steady attention, time, and commitment of large numbers of their citizens who, in turn, look to the government to protect their rights and freedoms.

Citizens:

  • are free to run for office or serve as appointed public officials for a time.
  • utilize a free press to speak out on local and national issues.
  • join labor unions, community groups, and business associations.

Some of you are probably thinking I wrote that or some reactionary element did so. You would be correct. The above excerpts were taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Democracy

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