Pilger leaps to defence of WikiLeaks

John Pilger, the award-winning documentary maker and stalwart of left-wing journalism, has leapt to the defence of fellow Australian Julian Assange, founder of whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks

In a piece published today by the New Statesman, Pilger dismisses as "propaganda" recent allegations that the whistle-blowing site acted irresponsibly in publishing details of the US war record in Afghanistan.

Assange's site has come under fierce criticism since releasing 75,000 classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan on 26 July.

Pilger defends the site's actions, saying that WikiLeaks had written to the White House asking that it identify Afghan names that might draw reprisals, but had received no reply. Of the remaining documents, Pilger says:

"More than 15,000 files were withheld and these, Assange says, will not be released until they have been scrutinised 'line by line' so that the names of those at risk can be deleted."

WikiLeaks has repeatedly claimed to have asked for assistance in this process from the Pentagon - a request that has so far met with rejection.

Pilger highlights the importance of the revelations contained within the leaked documents, citing "cover-ups, a secret assassination unit and the killing of civilians".

He defends the site's record, pointing to the measures Assange and others took to protect those affected by the site's publication earlier this year of a cockpit video showing a US Apache gunship killing 19 civilians in Iraq.

"WikiLeaks sent people to Baghdad to find the victims' families in order to prepare them," Pilger states.

Condemning the "hysteria" surrounding the recent WikiLeaks revelations, Pilger condemns his home country of Australia for its role in the war - and its attitude towards Assange, who has been threatened with "appropriate action" by the country's opposition Liberal party if it gains power in forthcoming elections.

"The Australian role in Afghanistan, which is in effect mercenary to Washington, has produced two striking results," says Pilger. "The massacre of five children at a village in Uruzgan Province and the overwhelming disapproval of the majority of Australians."

Calling on the UK's Guardian newspaper, which published the original Afghan war documents, to defend its sources, Pilger turns his attention to the mainstream media, which he condemns as "devoted merely to taking down what cynical and malign power tells it".

"This is state stenography," Pilger says, "not journalism".