Who’s a Global Citizen? Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and the Australian Media Reaction

This is a draft copy of the paper that Bonnie Liu Rui and I have prepared to be presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) 2011 annual conference, “Communication on the Edge: Shifting Boundaries and Identities“, to be held at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, 6-8 July, 2011. The paper has been submitted to Global Media Journal – Australian Edition, for consideration for the forthcoming special issue on Wikileaks, being edited by Hart Cohen and Antonio Castillo.


The global release of 250,000 United States Embassy diplomatic cables to selected media sites worldwide through the WikiLeaks web site was arguably the major global media event of 2010. As well as the implications of the content of the cables for international politics and diplomacy, the actions of WikiLeaks and its controversial editor-in-chief, the Australian Julian Assange, bring together a range of arguments about how the media, news and journalism are being transformed in the 21st century. This paper will focus on the reactions of Australian online news media sites to the release of the diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, including both the online sites of established news outlets such as The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the ABC’s The Drum site, and online-only sites such as Crikey, New Matilda and On Line Opinion. The study focuses on opinion and commentary rather than straight news reportage, and analysis is framed around five issues: WikiLeaks and international diplomacy; the Australian government’s reaction to the cable release; implications of WikiLeaks for journalism; WikiLeaks and democracy; and debates about the organisation and its leader and public face, Julian Assange. It also whether a ‘WikLeaks Effect’ has wider implications for how journalism is conducted in the future, particularly the method of ’redaction’ of large amounts of computational data.

The presentation can be downladed below: