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Archive:Ombudsman Decisions

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Myanmar/Burma dispute

This dispute arose because the choice of name for this article has political overtones. I asked whether disputants wanted a quick resolution pending Editorial Council policy decion, and they agreed. My decision on this dispute was:

The disputed article should be titled “Myanmar” with a redirect from “Burma” pending a decision from the Editorial Council on Citizendium-wide policy. Additional workgroups should be added to the article if and when material is added to the article that, in the opinion of editors from those workgroups, requires expert guidance from those workgroups.

I placed before the Editorial Council requests for them to address two relevant areas where possible changes of policy should be considered here ( Naming of countries).

Eastern Orthodox Church

No decisions here as I was just asked for guidance, which I've given: the guidance is not binding.

Some issues arose: 1) Neutrality. The circumstances have wider relevance. The article on the Eastern Orthodox Church explains features of the theology of that Church and of its history from the perspective of that Church. Is this neutral in the sense that Citizendium wishes? Because the article describes at length the theological differences between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and the historical events that led to the separation, I advised that it was essential for clarity that, where there are differences in interpretation between the two Churches, the article should make it explicit that it is giving the Orthodox interpretation, and that it is different from the Roman Catholic interpretation. I thought it would be helpful to state the differences, but as the article does not seek to argue or decide between their merits, no neutrality issues are involved. It does not seem necessary to struggle to give equal weight to different interpretations. It seems to me acceptable to write such an article from a particular perspective, if it is clear that it is from that perspective, and that other perspectives interpret certain things differently.

The relevant articles are: Article 18, "The Citizendium shall welcome contributions in all fields of knowledge." and Article 19, "All articles shall treat their subjects comprehensively, neutrally, and objectively to the greatest degree possible in a well-written narrative... "

It seems to me that in this case there is no "value-free" knowledge, and that a coherent well-written narrative might only be feasible if it is written from a given, stated framework of understanding. Neutrality must therefore be interpreted as neutral within that stated framework, and explicitly concede that there are other frameworks.

2)Referencing. Does Citizendium have a policy on how references should be used? Here is the advice I gave on Talk On the detail of sources. In some places I found these intrusive - the multiple references to Ware especially. This is an expert led encyclopedia, so we don't need dense sourcing. That's not to say we forbid it, and there may be good offsetting reasons, and it's certainly excellent practice to do as Thomas has done and closely sorce everything at first. However, there is a virtue in then thinning down: when I see something referenced, it is a flag that the point needs substantiation - i.e. that it might be controversial or disputed. When uncontroversial things are referenced it dilutes this message - our attention is not drawn to the key contentious issues where expert resolution is needed. If the points referenced to Ware are indeed controversial then I would be very worried that a single source is relied on for so many controversial points. I'd thus prefer that these were thinned out. The Wikipedia reference I deleted - we don't reference that because versions are not stable, and because their strength wholly rests on their sources, that we would be better quoting instead. In the particular case I just thought it was redundant.

3)Dates. Does Citizendium have a policy on the use of AD/BC vs CE/BCE? Many articles on Citizendium use CE/BCE. This article uses AD, and I thought that for this topic, that this was appropriate, and that it would be contentious and bureaucratic to seek to prevent this. It might be helpful, to avoid future disputes, to consider a guiding policy that the default position for dates should be to use CE and BCE, but to allow that in articles written from a Christian perspective, AD and BC may be used.

WikiLeaks; Content issues

WikiLeaks is a draft article, ostensibly about a website, but inevitably engaging in a highly controversial topic of wide importance. The issue is how to approach this in a way that is objective and scholarly. The dispute engages two different visions of Citizendium; should all articles be "a collaborative effort to collect, structure, and cultivate knowledge" according to principles of academic scholarship? Or are some articles better as a detailed, annotated log of significant events and opinions? Two editors adopt different positions; to one, the second position is flawed; it cannot produce a coherent, objective and neutral commentary. To the other, a log of events and opinions is valuable and informative, can be objective in the sense of avoiding an editorial tone, and can be neutral by ensuring balance in the selection of quotes and events.

The first editor asserts that academic objectivity requires a structured approach to the issues, and that extensive use of quotes subverts that process. Specifically, this editor feels that the article at present takes a “US-centric approach” by characterising the issues from the perspective of US interests, and expanding the article to encompass all other perspectives would make it chaotic. By his view, the better, academically objective approach might be more to look at the global significance of WikiLeaks, and to structure the article (for example) by characterising the issues of principle involved: freedom of speech; freedom of information; the roles and responsibilities of a free press in a liberal democracy; Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?; the need to hold governments accountable; how governments operate and the rights of the governed to know that; how these things are balanced by threats to individual liberty or national security; the impact that open disclosure may have on the quality of government etc. etc.

Any selection of quotes or events on such a hot and divisive issues is likely to be contentious. The second editor has portrayed a broad spread of opinion in his selection of quotes – but at present the article solely addresses the perceived impact on US interests - i.e. they are opinions (positive and negative) about the impact of WikiLeaks as it concerns the US, or they engage in discussion of the particular organisational aspects of WikiLeaks, but do not directly address the fundamental issues of ethos and principle.

Past WikiLeaks disclosures have for example included publishing the BNP membership list, with no direct US interests engaged; but even disclosures of US diplomatic information engage not only US interests but global interests. They, for example, engage issues between Saudi Arabia and Iran - and whether disclosing those matters is in the global public interest is separate from the issue of whether disclosure is in the US interests. It might (or might not) be that disclosing that is in the long term interests of peace, but not in short-term US diplomatic interests.

The WikiLeaks disclosures even before the latest episode were far reaching and controversial. The volume of disclosed material is massive. This article cannot attempt to log all significant disclosures and discuss them all objectively by all their potential implications. There needs to be some basis for selecting what things to report; and one basis would be that those chosen best exemplify particular issues. That seems to require that the issues be first identified in an article roadmap.

(This message has been copied to the Talk page of WikiLeaks, and all discussion moved there).Gareth Leng 17:41, 9 December 2010 (UTC)