Monday, November 29, 2010

The public has a right to know

Thanks to WikiLeaks and ‘Radiagate,' a significant treasure trove of classified or privately held information with the potential to affect the lives of millions of people has been brought into the public domain.both provide a much-needed glimpse into the real world — especially the real and often illegitimate interests that lie hidden behind the diplomatic niceties, political correctness, and corporate PR that dominate international and domestic messaging.The leaks we have seen and those that are yet to come are unlikely to alter any of fundamental balances.

We learn, for example, that America frets over not just what Beijing or Moscow thinks or does on a crucial question like Iran. Ankara and Berlin are also seen as potentially dissonant hothouses. American helplessness is writ large in the cables we have seen from Kabul and Islamabad. We know, for example, that Washington was worried that radioactive material in nuclear power stations in Pakistan could fall into the hands of terrorists but that Pakistani authorities refused to give the United States access to a research reactor for fear that local media coverage of the removal of highly enriched uranium would fuel public suspicions about an American takeover of Pakistani nuclear weapons.

 So also is the news that the U.S. is seeking to spy on senior United Nations officials. Apart from a Hillary Clinton cable referring to India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil as “self-appointed front-runners” for a permanent seat in an expanded U.N. Security Council and a cable from Ankara confirming that Turkey kept India out of a regional meeting on Afghanistan in deference to Pakistani sensitivities, there is little in the disclosures so far to discomfit New Delhi. But when the 3,000-odd dispatches sent by the U.S. Embassy in India are published over the next 48 hours, it is possible that some or many feathers will end up ruffled.

The Niira Radia tapes have only confirmed what we have known all along about dubious links among corporate giants, mediapersons and politicians. That policies are influenced by various interests and subjective decisions are made by the government has always been evident. What comes as a rude shock is the existence of a well-entrenched system that has perfected the art of enforcing subjective decisions. Mediapersons can no longer take the moral high ground while anchoring issues of national importance.

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