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Guardian’s David Leigh: Wikileaks Collaborating With Russia?

by Joseph W

On Saturday, the Index on Censorship raised some questions about Israel Shamir’s use of cables in Belarus.

Belarussian writer Evgeny Morozov wrote in the Guardian on Saturday:

WikiLeaks cannot just [...] put all the leaked documents online and solicit help from total strangers – the strangers, after all, might have political agendas of their own (something that WikiLeaks is slowly discovering thanks to its association with Israel Shamir, who has successfully leveraged his status as a “WikiLeaks freelancer” to solicit meetings with the big shots in Moscow and Minsk).

Wikileaks is linked with some very unsavoury characters in Sweden. As well as Shamir, his son, and Carl Lundstrom, we can add Daniel Bostrom, the Swedish journalist who wrote about Israeli organ harvesting, and also organised Assange’s media arrangements in Sweden.

But it’s more than just hanging around with dodgy characters, or not being able to control their behaviour – Assange actually paid Shamir to take these cables to Russia and Eastern Europe, and to add a pro-Lukashenko, pro-Putin and anti-Western “interpretation” to the cables.

Shamir also interviewed Assange for a Russian magazine, and then told Russian state media that he was raising funds for Assange to move over to Moscow.

Most astoundingly, Shamir alleged a US-Estonian conspiracy against Russia, writing in a popular Russian tabloid KP.

By contrast, this week Russia has expelled The Guardian’s Luke Harding from Moscow for the way he reported on Wikileaks:

In December the Guardian published an article by Harding which reported that Putin was likely to have known about the planned assassination in the opinion of Washington’s top diplomat in Europe because of the Russian prime minister’s “attention to detail”. That report was part of the newspaper’s WikiLeaks coverage.

Perhaps talking to Wikileaks in language they understand, the Guardian’s David Leigh is now openly raising questions about Wikileaks’ “friendly relations” with the Kremlin.

He tweets:

“Russia Today” is indeed arm of Russian state. And writes anti-Guardian propaganda, fed by #Wikileaks. It’s not funny.

And:

WL has adopted friendly relations with the Kremlin, who are enemies of free speech. Will WL condemn expulsion of Guardian reporter?

Also:

Russia Today, ie the Kremlin, describes self as official Wikileaks partner. WL silent on Guardian reporter’s expulsion. Why?

And:

Is “Russia Today” official #Wikileaks partner? You could ask Julian

It is remarkable that Leigh is voicing these claims. I hope the Guardian and other media organisations do continue to press Wikileaks over the way it has conducted business in Russia, and more urgently, how Wikileaks has behaved in Belarus.

Intriguingly, it seems that the Guardian chose to end its involvement with Wikileaks precisely due to its actions in Russia.

A few days ago, Alan Rusbridger spoke out about why The Guardian ended its working relationship with Wikileaks. He hinted at the role of Israel Shamir in this break-down of trust, telling the Columbia Journalism School:

There was a strange man in Russia and Belarus who appeared to be selling the documents. They turned up suddenly at an afternoon newspaper in Norway [Aftenposten].

So there was a sense that these documents were out and about, and I thought, at the moment we’re very happy with what we’ve done, we’ve defended, and it’s been a good exercise in collaboration. Over the next month, anything could happen, these documents could turn up anywhere – redacted or unredacted. So, why don’t we just make a clean announcement, we’re ending our exclusive relationship with Julian and he’s now free to do what he wants with them. It was a sort of marker, and I’m glad that we did that.

And I’m glad we put it on the record, because I was surprised to read on Sunday in the Telegraph, Julian claiming he kicked us out because he had doubts about us. We all had anxieties about the point where we were apparently the exclusive partners but in fact the information was now going to start leaking out across the world in forms that we might not have published it.”

Elsewhere, the Guardian-affiliated media mogul Trevor Ncube also has strong words on Wikileaks, telling Zimbabwe’s Daily Maverick:

“WikiLeaks has been very harmful to Zimbabwe in terms of the goal for normalising the political situation, as well as for the agenda for change,” said Ncube. “WikiLeaks has served to strengthen Robert Mugabe’s government, which is using the information to hit out at members of the opposition ahead of the election. WikiLeaks has become a very useful tool for Mugabe and his government, which is very unfortunate. It hasn’t aided the agenda for democracy or accountability. In fact, it has taken the country back five years.”