Wikileaks was set up to freely distribute information that was secret. However, it’s notable that its most recent leak of government files was only given to five newspapers (the New York Times, Le Monde, El País and De Speigel) each of which have had monopoly access in their own country to peruse the files, redact sensitive information, and then write exclusive stories about them.
This may have happened for two reasons. First, because Wikileaks identified a need to limit initial media access in order to ensure that the story had as big an impact as possible. The editorial of the Guardian mentions that the newspapers all agreed to publication dates set by Wikileaks, stating that “co-operation with WikiLeaks has been restricted to agreeing the dates on which we could cover specific regions.” Second, the limit may have been to ensure some control of information to prevent the loss of life – both the NYT and Guardian editorials stress they have shared redactions, such as the names of informers, with Wikileaks.
But why did Wikileaks decide to give the information to those five newspapers? In limiting early access to the Wikileaks documents, won’t they will be filtered through the perspective of those newspapers?
I can only speak with some knowledge about The Guardian and the New York Times but both are seen as liberal/left-wing newspapers in their countries. Did Assange give the five newspapers access because they are closest to his worldview, and in turn hopes they will put a spin on the information which he agrees with? I’ve just read a profile of the Wikileaks founder in the New Yorker, which had unprecedented access to him this summer. It indicates that Assange does take stances on the issues referenced in the information he leaks, stating that: “To be completely impartial is to be an idiot. This would mean that we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed.”
Or perhaps there is an alternative reason why the five newspapers gained access to the data. The New Yorker profile shows that Assange has been pursuing a number of business models in order to fund Wikileaks, such as auctioning early access to leaks. It says: “On the principle that people won’t regard something as valuable unless they pay for it, he has tried selling documents at auction to news organizations; in 2008, he attempted this with seven thousand internal e-mails from the account of a former speechwriter for Hugo Chávez. The auction failed. He is thinking about setting up a subscription service, where high-paying members would have early access to leaks.”