The media has actually likened reporting on the #MacronLeaks story to reporting on an ISIS beheading video. They are also stating that this is just yet another example of the Russians trying to throw an election like they did in the United States, citing the 4Chan created and pushed Trump/Russian hooker/Golden Shower meme article as… Fact.
… And these hacks have the nerve to call #MacronLeaks fake news:
There are some things that journalists can have principled reasons for not covering, such as the private lives of minor children of government officials.
Now there’s an argument that they should refrain from disclosing the contents of political candidates’ confidential documents and communications when hackers obtain and leak them in the run-up to elections. This is a dilemma right now for media around the world, after French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron acknowledged today that a trove of internal campaign materials was posted online ahead of the decisive May 7 election. Macron’s political party has reportedly (link in French) been subject in recent months to cyber attacks and intrusions emanating from Ukraine and Russia.
A year ago we wouldn’t have been comfortable arguing that journalists should hold back from reporting on and analyzing any such materials they were given. It would be a failure to do their jobs, on the principle that such reporting helps citizens make informed choices when they vote. But this is a brave new world, where hackers based in Russia and elsewhere are actively trying to undermine democracy by releasing, at carefully chosen moments, information stolen from the candidates they’re looking to undermine.
In 2014, many media organizations chose to censor ISIL videos of captives being beheaded, on the grounds that showing them merely rewarded the terrorists. We argue that in the run-up to an election, the media must think seriously about whether reporting on leaked documents serves a watchdog function or merely rewards hackers and leakers. If it seems to be the latter, they should consider not publishing.
This is admittedly a hard line to draw—much harder than in the case of beheading videos, the airing of which has no discernible journalistic value. It’s not going to always be clear when a leak is by malicious hackers and when it’s by well-meaning whistleblowers. Not reporting on the material can smack of taking sides, as it means effectively sheltering one candidate—in this case, moderate Macron against right-wing Marine Le Pen. Also, shouldn’t journalists just report out the material and trust that voters are intelligent enough to decide?
There are other obvious problems. How far ahead of an election should the cut-off point be? One answer might be: long enough to analyze the leaked material and work it out whether it’s real or fake—or, as appears to be the case with the Macron leak, a mixture of both—and whether there’s journalistic value in reporting it. But that may not be clear until the analysis is done, and the time it takes will also depend on how much material there is.