The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks sits on the precipice. With it sits freedom of expression and freedom of the press — two fundamental human rights encapsulated in the charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WikiLeaks is under a series of attacks and could be forced to close some time next year if it is unable to break a United States-backed financial blockade, editor-in-chief Julian Assange said on October 24.
In a plea for political and financial support published at WikiLeaks.org, Assange said: “[W]e have withstood attacks from military and intelligence organisations, lawsuits, imprisonment, cyber warfare and high level calls for our assassinations … But now we face our greatest challenge: a politically motivated banking blockade led by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America.”
The financial sanctions began late last year when MasterCard and PayPal refused to process donations to WikiLeaks. Other financial institutions soon joined the blockade, freezing millions in funds donated by WikiLeaks’ supporters.
These sanctions were a direct response to WikiLeaks publishing hundreds of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables. Many of the cables detailed huge corruption and war crimes committed or swept under the carpet by the US and other governments.
An October 24 WikiLeaks statement said: “The attack has destroyed 95% of our revenue. The blockade came into force within ten days of the launch of Cablegate as part of a concerted US-based, political attack … 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.”
The financial blockade has had such a debilitating effect on WikiLeaks’ operations that the website has been forced to cease publishing any fresh cables to concentrate on its survival.
Assange said WikiLeaks has thousands more forthcoming revelations, as well as many contracts with media publications worldwide. Many of WikiLeaks’ past revelations have proven of great significance — such as the Collateral Murder video released last year that depicted the indiscriminate killing of civilians and journalists by US soldiers in Iraq.
Assange said: “These politicised companies believe they have the right to stop you voting with your wallet. They want you to stop the cause you believe in.”
Neither WikiLeaks, nor any of its staff, have been formally charged with any illegal activity in regards to its publishing operations.
However, a grand jury has also been established in the US to determine whether Assange may be criminally liable for the disclosure of secret US military cables.
The political nature of the WikiLeaks blockade by powerful financial institutions, at the behest of the US government, is revealed by the fact Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have no qualms about processing donations to violent hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
These institutions are also happy to process donations to US-registered groups funding Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank that are illegal under international law.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that at least one of the major credit cards enables donations to an extremist Jewish group that has placed a bounty on the lives of Palestinians, a December 13, 2010 Crikey.com.au article said.
There is no evidence WikiLeaks has breached international law, nor the laws of any country. The financial blockade threatening to destroy it is further evidence of how governments and big corporations are entwined — something that cables WikiLeaks released showed clearly.
This is one reason why the global Occupy movement taking on corporate power should demand the ending of this undemocratic blockade.