Beyond the blockade

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

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Since 2012, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) has accepted donations on behalf of WikiLeaks readers after Visa, Mastercard and PayPal instituted an extra-legal financial blockade of WikiLeaks in 2011 and 2012.

When WikiLeaks started publishing classified State Department cables in conjunction with the New York Times and other papers in late 2010, government officials had pressured US companies to cut off services to WikiLeaks—despite the fact that their publications were clearly protected speech, and that no court ever ruled WikiLeaks had broken any laws.

The episode was a disturbing end run around the First Amendment by US government officials, and we aimed to ensure it could never happen to any media organization again. As our founding board member Glenn Greenwald wrote at the time, “The primary impetus for the formation of this group was to block the US government from ever again being able to attack and suffocate an independent journalistic enterprise the way it did with WikiLeaks.”

These efforts were ultimately successful. Last month, FPF’s board unanimously concluded—based on the available evidence—that the financial blockade by Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal is now over and likely has been for some time.

WikiLeaks now accepts online donations through the German non-profit Wau Holland, which was how they accepted donations before FPF was founded. Because the blockade has been lifted, FPF will cease taking donations for WikiLeaks ourselves in mid-January 2018, and instead, point current donors who want to support WikiLeaks to Wau Holland's website.

We consider the end of the unjust financial blockade an important victory for free expression. We are proud to have been an avenue for WikiLeaks readers to express themselves for the past several years. And if a press organization faces such a blockade again, we plan on being there to fight it.

It’s important to note that just because WikiLeaks can take their own donations again, it does not mean that their broader First Amendment rights—and the rights of all media outlets—are not under threat. The Trump administration has dangerously referred to WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and there have been reports that the Justice Department is seeking the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

We strongly oppose any prosecution of WikiLeaks or Assange for their publishing activities. Whether one likes WikiLeaks or not, the grand jury investigation into their publications is a grave threat to the press freedom of all media institutions. We plan on continuing to loudly protest any such actions by the Trump administration if they move forward.