WikiLeaks on Monday announced the launch of a new platform called the Freedom of the Press Foundation to beat the “the extra-judicial” banking blockade against it, and to promote “aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption and law-breaking in government”.
It said the Foundation was an initiative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a U.S.-based non-profit digital rights advocacy group, and was backed, among others, by former Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and actor John Cusack.
“They will crowd-source fundraising and support for organisations or individuals under attack for publishing the truth,” it said.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange vowed to fight “this immoral blockade” which had led to 95 per cent of the contributions to the organisation being stopped.
“We’ve fought this immoral blockade for two long years. We smashed it in the courts. We smashed it in the Treasury. We smashed it in France. We smashed it in Germany. And now, with strong and generous friends who still believe in First Amendment rights, we’re going to smash it in the United States as well”, he said.
In a statement, WikiLeaks said its “running primary cash reserves” were down from more than a million dollars in 2010 to under a thousand dollars, as of December 2012, because of the blockade.
“Only an aggressive attack against the blockade will permit WikiLeaks to continue publishing through 2013. The new initiative, combined with a recent victory in Germany, means contributions to WikiLeaks now have tax-deductible status throughout the United States and Europe,” it said.
Explaining how the system would work, it said: “The Foundation’s first ‘bundle’ will crowd-source funds for WikiLeaks, the National Security Archive, The UpTake and MuckRock News. Donors will be able to use a slider to set how much of their donation they wish each organisation to receive and can donate to WikiLeaks using their credit cards. The Foundation holds 501(c) charitable status, so donations are tax-deductible in the U.S. Other courageous press organisations will be added as time goes by. It will not be possible to see by banking records what portion of a donor’s contribution, if any, goes to WikiLeaks.”
John Perry Barlow, a board member of the Foundation, said the initiative aimed to achieve more than just crowd-sourced fundraising.
“We hope it makes a moral argument against these sorts of actions. But it could also be the basis of a legal challenge. We now have private organisations with the ability to stifle free expression. These companies have no bill of rights that applies to their action — they only have terms of service”, he said.
WikiLeaks says the blockade by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and a host of other financial institutions is “unlawful” and part of a “politically motivated” retaliation by American authorities against it for publishing leaked secret diplomatic cables.
“In heavily redacted European Commission documents recently released by WikiLeaks, MasterCard Europe admitted that U.S. Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King were both directly involved in instigating the blockade,” it said.