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Publications - Appropriateness test

Appropriateness test

Ukrainian Lawyer
№9-10 (93-94) September-October 2010

Roman Drozhanskyi, Volkov and Partners Law Firm

Lately, Julian Assange, previously hardly known by anyone, has broken into the information realm acting in a way that provoked a blow up in the world of diplomacy and journalism. Particularly, the newspapers all over the world published correspondence between American embassies and the State Department on different issues: from special features of French president’s character to course of acts of war in Afghanistan.
Such vast information «leak» has been possible owing to the nature of the Internet, where the freedom can hardly be restricted even by the American government. Official and off-the-record ‘witch-hunt’ by the US triggered off sudden upswing in hacker’s, journalists and average people, whose efforts transformed the documents disseminated by Wikileaks into ever existing in the network.
In my opinion, information of this kind, disclosed through the Internet, has the adverse effect, as it can hinder rather then help American – and not only American – diplomatic officials to work efficiently. Free communication with the sources and possibility to hand down this information to the governments is all part and parcel of the diplomatic duties, and it is hardly possible to imagine international relation on the hole without it.
However, the positive result of the Wikileaks scandal is that it has made possible to watch a reaction of the western governments who used to be proud of freedom of speech as the main achievement of their legal systems. As ever, some governments failed the test for response adequacy and showed hypocrisy – awaited by some critics – where the freedom of speech was used against them.
Let’s talk about the consequences of this story, setting the nature and suspected target of American dispatches leakage (this topic is largely debated thanks, in large part, to Mr. Assange) aside of this column. On the West regular publications of the information that unveils the most secret aspects of activity of politicians and state security forces of Western leading countries blew people’s mind. Five biggest newspapers of European and North American countries that were first to receive an access to American diplomatic dispatches have daily brought this information into sharp focus on their pages and afterwards interrogated public officials to seek explanations when the dispatches contained state secrets compromising the state’s executives. Even the fact that the disclosed information might at least be inconvenient for the US government could not stopped one of US newspapers from massive publications thereof.
As such, it would be interesting to picture an alike situation in our country: could it ever emerge in Ukraine? Would we in such situation witness the same buoyant feedback on brand new information from the society or at least its larger part, or the mass media, for example? Would the government’s reaction be inadequate or much harsher?
The country where the disclosure of sensational information on corruption and even common crimes of high-ranking officials and their related persons merely impresses the society and law enforcing authorities has nothing to console itself with.
Among the most typical traits of the Ukrainian society is common disinterest to compromising information and impossibility to drive the state to react. State authorities’ disregard of socially important information has recently got staggering. This, in turn, resulted in that journalists lost the interest to disclose information that would otherwise trigger a massive investigation.
Such situation implies lots of motives that may be hotly debated about for a long time. One of the basic motives is a desperate feeling of inability to achieve tangible changes from the government. This feeling is a great deal excited by that the state lacks an independent judge, barrister (this means the lack of real contested action in cases where the state is one of the parties to dispute) and journalist. Exactly these three components are the essential conditions, though not the only ones, for the modern advanced society.
Nothing is left but to believe that there is a critical number of people that perceive challenges the state faces and are far from being manipulated by general discouraged and frustrated moods.

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