WikiLeaks to temporarily shut publishing operations

Vidya Ram London | Updated on March 12, 2018

Mr Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing Web site Wikileaks, has announced that they will be temporarily shutting down publishing operations in order to concentrate efforts on raising funds and fighting the financial blockade against it.

The financial blockade against Wikileaks, which has been in place since December 7, 2010, posed an “existential threat” to the organisation, an emotional Mr Assange said at a press conference in London on Monday. For nearly a year since then the organisation had been running almost entirely on cash reserves, he said, with revenues averaging around £7,000 a month this year, compared to around £100,000 a month last year. If the blockade – which has destroyed around 95 per cent of Wikileaks' revenue — wasn't torn down by the end of the year, the organisation wouldn't be able to continue functioning, he said. He estimated that as much as €50 million of donations could have been lost.

Mr Assange described the blockade imposed by Visa, MasterCard, the Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union after the publication of over 250,000 US embassy cables last year as “arbitrary and unlawful,” without any democratic oversight or transparency. “The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade…but the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicised US finance companies continues regardless.”

Donations to Wikileaks in November last year surged to over €800,000, falling sharply the following month, when funding sources were cut off. “I never thought we'd be in the position we are today…that the blockade would still be in place,” said Mr Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist who is the main spokesperson for WikiLeaks. “Its not an attack on Wikileaks only…this is an attack on freedom of speech.”

WikiLeaks has already launched its fightback against the blockade: it has begun pre-litigation action in Iceland, Denmark, Britain, Brussels, the US and Australia, and has lodged an anti-trust complaint at the European Commission. The first case, in Denmark, is expected to kick off in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, a drive to raise funds through alternative routes, including SMS, Money Gram, direct bank transfers and some online routes has also been launched.

While publishing operations are suspended, the organisation plans to launch a new platform for whisteblowers to make submissions on November 28, the first anniversary of the cables leak. Existing platforms couldn't be trusted, Mr Assange said, pointing to the example of DigiNotar, the Dutch certification Web site which was infiltrated by Iranian intelligence. In some cases certification Web sites were under the effective control of states, he said. Wikileaks had to re-engineer a new submission system that was “independent of all certification authorities” he said.

Published on October 24, 2011

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