UN Backs Wikileaks, Calls for Transparency
The United Nations has called for states to offer maximum transparency in a statement issued about Wikileak.ch's Cablegate leak, which has also released information on Cyprus, Turkey and Israel.
UN rapporteurs Catalina Botero Marino and Frank LaRue said that the right to access information held by public authorities is a "fundamental human right".
"The right to access to information protects the right of every person to access public information and to know what governments are doing on their behalf," said the rapporteurs.
National authorities "should take active steps to ensure the principle of maximum transparency, address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries and increase the amount of information subject to routine disclosure," goes the statement.
Secrecy laws should define national security 'precisely' and give clear criteria on whether information is secret or not.
Access to information on national security or other grounds should only be limited "where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information," said the UN.
Information on human rights violations should not be considered secret or classified, said the rapporteurs.
"Government "whistleblowers" releasing information on violations of the law, on wrongdoing by public bodies, on a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, or on a breach of human rights or humanitarian law should be protected against legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions if they act in good faith," said the rapporteurs.
Finally, direct or indirect government interference or pressure exerted upon "any expression or information transmitted through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law when it is aimed at influencing content."
"Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action are not acceptable," said the rapporteurs.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to a barrage of criticism and pressure from US government officials who say that Cablegate will affect their diplomatic relations with countries around the world.
The alleged whistleblower Private Bradley Manning is still in jail awaiting a court martial amid accusations by human rights organisations that he is being mistreated by authorities in the US.