Snowden story is as much about journalism as surveillance (Wired UK)


Duncan Geere


Glenn Greenwald has told the audience at the Meg conference in
Gothenburg, Sweden, that the overreach of surveillance services is as much a failure
of “corporatised” media organisations as a failure of government
oversight.

“The Snowden story is at least as much a
story about journalism as it is about surveillance and privacy,” he said. “The need to be extremely
independent, to stay out of these large media institutions, has
been critical to my decisions in how I want to do journalism.”

Greenwald said that the biggest media organisations fail to hold
people in power to account, as the most influential journalists
occupy the same socioeconomic circles as the powerful. “There’s too
much of a cultural and intellectual closeness into the same
precincts they’re supposed to be exercising oversight over,” he
said.

He also said that he believes the Snowden revelations have made
the work of the NSA “much, much harder”. “Nobody
in journalism or in human rights activism was using encryption 18
months ago. This has been a real sea change that I think is
important,” he said.

“There are countries thinking about how to prevent surveillance
of their citizens by the NSA. There is very real pressure now on
the largest companies to prove to the public that they’re
protecting the privacy of their users rather than collaborating
with the NSA. That’s made privacy again possible on the net,” he
added. “I’m glad about that.”

He said that journalists needed to be less objective and more
crusading: “If you look at how journalism was conceived and how it
has been practiced, it was almost always done by people who saw
themselves as crusaders — citizens who were working towards some
outcome or perceived injustice.”

Now, he said, the corporate ethos of minimising risk has
“drained journalism of its passion”. He added: “This type of
neutrality isn’t just artificial, it’s undermining of the central
purpose of journalism.”

He added he was disappointed that only Russia was willing to
protect Snowden’s political rights by offering him residence and
protecting him from “decades” in a US prison. “The real reason
asylum isn’t being offered is perceived cost to relations with the
United States,” he said. “That’s a very minor cost compared to the
cost paid by Edward Snowden.”

Despite working with eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar to fund his
new publication, The Intercept, Greenwald said that he
didn’t think the future of journalism was “scouring the world for
billionaires to give you a bunch of money”.

“People who give you money generally want to influence what
you’re doing,” he said, though claimed that Omidyar had no
editorial influence over the site. When asked why, then, he was
funding it, he said that the Snowden disclosures had radicalised a
lot of people. “If you have eight billion dollars, and
you want to build a media organisation that you can control, the
dumbest thing to do is build it around me, Laura Poitras and Jeremy
Scahill.”

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6 March 2015 | 5:11 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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