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With WikiLeaks Looming Large, State Dept. Announces Hosting of Press Freedom Event

Forget WikiLeaks–the State Department wants the world to know they love the freedom of the press.

Hillary Clinton

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Fresh from condemning the latest WikiLeaks revelations, the State Department announced on Tuesday that they planned to host the 2011 World
Press Freedom Day
, May 1-3, organized by
UNESCO–the
United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization.

Whether or not it qualifies for inclusion in a celebration of press freedoms, WikiLeaks was the hot pink, four-ton gorilla in the room. Its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in London on sexual misconduct charges stemming from alleged incidents in Sweden on the same day of the State Department announcement. His leak site had just published diplomatic cables implying that the Department of State
was instructing local representatives to spy
on United Nations officials
.

The
highlight of the State Department’s hosting duties will be the
awarding of the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize at
the National Press Club on May 3. The prize honors those who have
“notably contributed to the defense and/or promotion of press
freedom, especially where risks have been undertaken.” Past winners
have included the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Israeli
Gaza correspondent Amira Hass, and Zimbabwean newspaper editor
Geoffrey Nyarota. Other events will take place at Washington’s
Newseum.

In another instance some would consider ironic, the State Department’s primary online
home for World Press Freedom Day is a Facebook page. Discussion boards there are open, and multiple users are taking clear sides on whether WikiLeaks should be considered legitimate press and calling the State Department’s
hosting announcement hypocritical after officials called for the detainment of Assange.

According to State Department
spokesperson P.J. Crowley, “The United States places technology and
innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development
efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report
on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and
exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such
exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the
same time, we are concerned about the determination of some
governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the
free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom
Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand
press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”

Foreign Policy‘s
Josh Rogin notes
that Crowley has taken to Twitter to criticize Assange. On Tuesday,
Crowley tweeted that
“Julian #Assange comes clean as opportunist, threatens to put
others at risk to save his own hide” in response to Assange’s
threat to release extremely damaging cables.

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