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Five things to know about WikiLeaks


Paris: WikiLeaks has made global headlines for 10 years by releasing millions of classified documents, embarrassing governments worldwide but also raising fears that the revelations may have put lives in danger.

Its controversial founder Julian Assange, holed up since 2012 in the Ecuadoran embassy in London to avoid extradition over rape allegations, has also polarised opinion on the group.

Here are five things to know about WikiLeaks as it marks its 10-year anniversary.

– 10 million leaks -While the WikiLeaks website was registered in 2006, the group launched in 2007, with Assange saying it would use encryption and a censorship-proof website to protect sources and publicise secret information.

WikiLeaks first caught the world’s attention when it released manuals for US prison guards at Guantanamo Bay.

But it really hit its stride in 2010, when it worked with the New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais to publish millions of classified diplomatic cables.

In 10 years it has published more than 10 million leaked documents, embarrassing politicians, governments and corporations.

– Controversy strikes -In its early days, WikiLeaks worked with dissidents worldwide to expose government secrets from the United States to Europe, China, Africa and the Middle East.

But over time, it has increasingly set its sights on the US, and even come under suspicion that it may be working with Russia.

Assange denies the claims, though he frequently features on pro-Moscow television channel Russia Today.

In July WikiLeaks raised a storm by leaking emails showing US Democratic Party officials favouring Hillary Clinton over left-winger Bernie Sanders in presidential primary elections, forcing high-ranking party members to resign.

More recently, WikiLeaks was accused of revealing the identity of a gay man in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. Again, the group denied the accusation.

And on Tuesday, Assange vowed to publish new documents related to the US presidential elections ahead of the November 8 vote.

– Arrest warrant -The worst scandals to affect WikiLeaks have been those involving controversial founder Assange.

Hailed as a hero by supporters and reviled as a manipulator by critics, the white-haired Australian has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over a rape allegation.

– Snowden and Manning -The massive release of memos known as “cablegate”, which embarrassed governments worldwide, would not have been possible had it not been for soldier Chelsea Manning, who handed WikiLeaks 700,000 classified documents.

She is now serving a 35-year prison sentence. She has appealed against her conviction, and her lawyers argue she should be given some whistleblower protections.

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has also received WikiLeaks’ backing, though he did not use the group’s site to publish his leaks about the National Security Agency.

Assange recommended he quickly flee to Moscow to evade prosecution in the US — advice he heeded.

– In the movies -Two major films have been made about WikiLeaks — “The Fifth Estate” (2013) and “Risk”, a documentary screened at the Cannes film festival this year.

Assange meanwhile guest-starred as himself in an episode of The Simpsons, recording his lines over the phone from the Ecuadoran embassy.

Agence France-Presse

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