WikiLeaks Website Launched - [October 4, 2006] This Day in History

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

On 4 October 2006, the global whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks was launched. In this edition of This Day in History, you can read all about WikiLeaks. This is a part of international affairs, security, media, etc. for the IAS exam.

WikiLeaks Background

  • WikiLeaks is a non-profit organisation that runs a whistleblowing website by the same name.
  • The website has generated a huge storm in government and diplomatic circles with its release of classified information and government documents that many governments and agencies wouldn’t want the public to know of.
  • The organisation claims it has 10 million documents in its database.
  • WikiLeaks was founded by Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist who is also the website’s editor-in-chief and director.
  • Its stated purpose is “to bring important news and information to the public.” It claims to publish only authentic material.
  • The organisation gets its news and information from individuals and journalists who wish to whistleblow any important information. WikiLeaks also tries to ensure security for such informants who can directly supply information to WikiLeaks’ journalists.
  • It publishes only political, historical and financial news.
  • Its first document was posted in December 2006. This document contained a decision to assassinate government officials signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a political figure in Somalia.
  • In November 2007, it released a copy of Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, an official document that detailed a US army protocol regarding prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. This document showed that certain detainees were barred from being shown to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This was in contrast to US military claims.
  • It also released some information about the 2008 US Presidential Election campaign that particularly affected Hillary Clinton and according to some, led to her loss.
  • Many such documents and emails were published that led to criticism from some quarters and approval from others. Governments were particularly concerned about the repercussions of classified information being thrown out in the public domain. However, a lot of people expressed their support for WikiLeaks as people’s resort against secretive governments.
  • In 2010, the website released documents pertaining to the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Videos were released which showed the US military responsible for the killing of journalists and unarmed people in Iraq.
  • WikiLeaks created some noise in India when it released a list of account holders with a Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. This firm provides offshore financial services. The list included 500 Indian names including some celebrities. It was alleged that they had hoarded their black money outside through this firm. It was, however, not proved.
  • WikiLeaks also assisted Edward Snowden, a former US government contractor who leaked information about global surveillance programmes run by the National Security Agency in collaboration with various governments.
  • Ever since its launch, WikiLeaks has been a major headline grabber. It has received both censure and appreciation for its work. It has also won many awards such as Amnesty International’s UK Media Award (2009) and The Economist’s New Media Award (2008).
  • While it is regarded as a phenomenon to empower citizens, governments have accused it of compromising international diplomacy.
  • Its founder Julian Assange has also received numerous awards.
  • WikiLeaks has opened up the debate on press freedom versus individual freedom as well as government control over people’s lives.
Also on This Day 

1857: Birth of Shyamji Krishna Varma, revolutionary freedom fighter and lawyer who founded the India House in London. 1953: India was elected to the UN Trusteeship Council. 1957: The USSR launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. 1966: Lesotho declared independence from the United Kingdom. 1977: Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then External Affairs Minister of India addressed the UN General Assembly in Hindi.

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