Govts have a right to secrecy: Diplomat

February 25, 2011 - 1:12:24 am


By Fazeena Saleem

DOHA: Governments have a right to keep discussions, documents on political secrets, sensitive and issues and it’s immoral to leak these to the public, says a high profile diplomat.

“There is sensitive information in every profession,” Jeffrey Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said here yesterday, speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa – A Policy Perspective’ hosted by Northwestern University of Qatar.

Feltman responding to queries from the audience criticised and condemned WikiLeaks and Al Jazeera for publishing classified information. He said it’s unethical to release such information to the public.

“WikiLeaks has stolen private information. WikiLeaks information is essentially stolen confidential information from the US government. And we are opposed to the released of information about private information with our embassies and our head quarters as it is equal to stealing information between you and your lawyer, you and your bank and putting out on the Internet,” said Feltman.

Thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US on the peace process been obtained by Al Jazeera TV and made public is unethical says Felthman.

“The Palestinians certainly have the right ask their leaders for information,” he said adding that the way Al Jazeera reported was making the issue more sensational and it did not meet the standards and ethics of journalism.  

“The basic principles which we have said publicly are what we have said by wires,” Felthman said.

However, he said that the US government is committed to a free flow of information and stressed the need to work toward a world in which access to information and networks can bring people closer and expand the definition of a global community.

“The rights of individuals to express their views freely; to petition their leaders; to do things like worship according to their own beliefs - these rights are universal in our view whether they are exercised in a public square or whether they come out through individual blogs,” said Felthman.

“We are always comfortable with the information we see circulating. We don’t always agree with it. We don’t think it’s fair or accurate. But we don’t think there should be a crackdown on the type of space that is being created in cyber space,” he added.

Feltman held discussions with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs H E Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud on relations between the two countries and ways of enhancing them in addition to matters of mutual concern earlier yesterday. 

The Peninsula