This House believes the world is better off with Wikileaks

Monday January 24 2011
MOTION PASSED by 74% to 26%


This House believes the world is better off with Wikileaks

Arab youth have overwhelmingly embraced the WikiLeaks phenomenon and told their governments to stop lying to them.

In the latest Doha Debate an audience of mostly Arab and Muslim students supported the motion: This House believes the world is better off with Wikileaks, by a margin of 74 to 26 percent.

The highly-charged debate was held weeks after the whistle-blowing website published confidential US diplomatic cables, exposing official corruption in several Middle East states and a yawning gap between the private and public positions of Arab rulers on Iran.

A student won instant applause when he said:  "I would rather live in a world where I am told the truth than in a world where I am told lies". Another female student from Qatar asked: "Is it really that wrong to know the truth?"

Panelists clashed frequently over the rights and wrongs of leaking secret State Department cables.

"WikiLeaks is not the solution," said former Canadian diplomat Scott Gilmore, who argued against the motion.

"Democracy is a messy house with a leaking roof. Julian Assange wants to blow up the house and ruin the diplomatic system." He added that Mr. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was a "foreign terrorist from the old school of anarchy".

This sparked protest from a Jordanian member of the audience. "You have no right to call him a terrorist for giving out information that should not be hidden from the public [the way] other international news channels do."

Carl W. Ford, a former intelligence chief at the State Department, also opposed the motion.

"WikiLeaks is forcing governments to tighten up systems and become less transparent, contrary to what Assange says he is out to achieve," he said. "Soon there won't be anything left for whistle-blowers to do."

Mr. Ford added: "Instead of relying on Julian, we have courts, congressional hearings, journalism and whistle-blowers," adding that existing mechanisms were sufficient to hold presidents accountable.

Speaking in favour of the motion were Sir Richard Dalton, former British Ambassador to Iran, and Carne Ross, who resigned from the British Foreign Office over Iraq.

"The world is better off with WikiLeaks because it has exposed many wrong-doings," said Dalton, currently Associate fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London. "We want a government that does not abuse its power. Truth and accountability are important... We have to hold governments accountable for lies and deceit.

Recalling his first-hand experience with the British government in the run-up to the Iraq conflict, Carne Ross added: "They exaggerated the arguments for war. Parliament and the media did not do their job.  If governments told the truth we wouldn't need WikiLeaks."

"We still don't know the real reason why the US and the UK went to war in Iraq." 

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