On the road with Wikileaks

Mediastan A small group of Wikileaks journalists make their way through Central Asia interviewing newspaper editors. Their real goal: to find local media outlets to publish secret US diplomatic cables. This intelligent, guerrilla-style doc follows their fascinating journey from Afghanistan to Manhattan, through the boundaries of free speech and the minds of those who shape our understanding of the world.

The bleak, mountainous terrain and quiet, lonely roads set the tone for this compelling venture into the heart of 'the Stans'. The first stop is Asia Plus, a newspaper in Tajikistan. "If we were to talk too freely about our taboos, what kind of taboo would that be?" asks the Editor-in-Chief, Marat Mamadshoev, with a smile. "We'd rather get approval from our superior first..." he says nervously. "The Washington DC overlord of Asia Plus!"

Given the go-ahead, the team pours over the material. Speaking over Skype, Assange warns, "Read all of it. If you go searching for particular things you will bring your own prejudice to the material." But as the Wikileaks team move on to their next meeting, soon the call comes, "the problem is that there are many things in the cables that we cannot publish...because we will get into trouble".

At the offices of the Kazakh Telegraph Agency the team receive a more frosty reception. "Why have you come here? If an unskilled man gets access to this data it will lead to anarchy!" Editor-in-Chief of the magazine 'Expert Kazakhstan' says with a shrug, "You are wasting your life in vain. Nothing will come out of it."

After an arduous trek, back in their UK base the team take stock. "These boundaries of free speech, they look different in different countries, but they always exist in one way or another." In London and Washington the Editors-in-Chief of The Guardian and the New York Times speak frankly about the issues of "protecting individuals" and "self-censorship" and making tough decisions about whether or not to publish leaked government data. Sitting in front of a wall of framed pictures of US Presidents and politicians, Bill Keller discusses how, "a lot of presidents and foreign ministers...troop through air their views".

A potent road map of the fragile connections between the press, the public and the silent powers that control them.


The Producers

Johannes Wahlström is a journalist and filmmaker who was born in London in 1981 and grew up in Jaffa, Moscow and Stockholm. Educated in Anthropology, Political Science and Media and Communications Studies, Wahlström’s work makes a point of transcending cultural norms and boundaries. Amongst his feats is a short time in an Israeli prison for breaking the military siege at the Church of Nativity, co-founding the International Middle East Media Centre, investigative journalism on corruption in the Swedish media. Exposing nepotism amongst diplomats, then working with them. Wahlström’s work with the WikiLeaks releases of 2010 led to the Mediastan project.

Making The Film

"We are exploring the borders of this place we live in called ‘Mediastan’…The ‘stans’ themselves are geopolitically and culturally a fascinating place. This documentary hints at that in different ways. The region is the cream in the layer cake. At the top you have Russia, at the bottom you have China, and the US has peppered the area with military bases, agreements and various forces of influence." - Julian Assange

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