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WikiLeaks re-opens donations under newly-formed Freedom of the Press Foundation

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New non-profit will build a support network for government transparency

Wikileaks Logo
Wikileaks Logo

After a two-year financial blockade that has all but strangled the whistleblowing organization, WikiLeaks has re-opened donations in coordination with a new non-profit, the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Backed by Pentagon Papers publisher Daniel Ellsberg, Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow and others, the group is channeling tax-deductable donations for Wikileaks and other organizations through PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and of course, Bitcoin as part of a new effort to "promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government."

Following the release of a collection of unflattering US diplomatic cables in 2010, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and others stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks on the basis that the money was being used to fund illegal activity. In July, an Icelandic court ruled that Valitor, formerly Visa Iceland, had violated contract laws in refusing to process donations to Wikileaks — a decision that Valitor promptly appealed.

Even with the courts on their side, WikiLeaks has been hard-pressed to stay afloat financially

But even with the courts on their side, WikiLeaks has been hard-pressed to stay afloat financially, due in no small part to rapidly accumulating legal fees for its founder, Julian Assange, who was granted political asylum by Ecuador in August in order to avoid extradition to the US. According to the organization, the funds in its main account have steadily shrunk to under $1,000 since the banking blockade first began.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation hopes to prevent that from happening again by offering crowdfunded support for muckraking journalist organizations and websites promoting government transparency, starting with National Security Archive, MuckRock, and The UpTake. As for WikiLeaks, it's unclear whether its adversaries in the US government and financial sector will attempt to cut off payments once again by simply blocking the new organization. But a provocative Assange says it would be a bold move on their part. "Let Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and all the rest block the independent Freedom of the Press Foundation," he writes in a statement. "Let them demonstrate to the world once again who they really are."