Assange’s lawyer speaks

Mark Stevens brings the discussion about freedom of speech to campus.

by Editorial board

Whether you agree with the actions of WikiLeaks in recent years or donâÄôt, the University of Minnesota did right by inviting Julian AssangeâÄôs personal defense attorney Mark Stephens to speak last Tuesday. This opened a dialogue about many controversial issues entangling WikiLeaks, and Stephens shared his unique insight into the world of constitutional rights and the freedoms of speech and press. With many organizations from governments to corporations trying to shut down the flow of information today, WikiLeaks continues to fight for our freedoms by attempting to share and reveal information.

The actions of its poster child, Assange, have the values of freedom and openness at heart. In some cases, we allow the government to keep information secret for our own protection. However, this agreement can easily be abused without a strong watchdog: the journalist.

Discussing when disclosure is appropriate and necessary, along with what it takes to achieve public disclosure were the main themes of the talk. WikiLeaksâÄô disclosures helped spark the Arab Spring, revealed our militaryâÄôs motives to everyday citizens and facilitated productive investigative journalism.

Sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the event highlighted the responsibility the University has to push substantive, engaging and influential conversations in the humanities, something that can get lost in the shuffle of conversations and discoveries in science and technology fields. The questions brought up at this talk are not easy to answer, and precisely why the University needs to continue to cultivate an open forum of conversation. By defending and exercising our ability to discuss these topics, the University is helping to create a better, freer world.