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29 April, 2016

WikiLeaks vs MainstreamLeaks on Panama Papers

WikiLeaks took to Twitter to criticize what the organization describes as the continued “censorship” of the Panama Papers archive by the organizations and reporters who control the contents of the leak.

The massive archive of 2.6 terabytes of financial data leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca is controlled by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and hundreds of journalists who have been selected to write about the archive’s contents.

The Panama Papers exposed the efforts the world’s wealthiest people, including more than a dozen world leaders, take to hide their earnings from tax authorities. The release caused upheaval in Iceland’s government and protests in the United Kingdom.

A growing number of international authorities are demanding access to the archive, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, including a German finance minister and representatives of the U.S. Justice Department. But ICIJ’s director told DW last week that they would reject these and all similar requests.

Our focus is journalism … ICIJ, and its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity, are media organizations shielded by the First Amendment and other legal protections from becoming an arm of law enforcement,” Gerard Ryle said.

WikiLeaks sharply criticized this decision, suggesting on Tuesday that time was running out for these investigations as money is moved and evidence destroyed.

However, in an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit on Tuesday, the investigative unit at Süddeutsche Zeitung argued that limiting access to the archive was a way to protect the source of the leak: “As journalists, we have to protect our source: we can’t guarantee that there is no way for someone to find out who the source is with the data.” In response, WikiLeaks slammed this as an “entirely bogus” justification by ICIJ that allows for “lucrative privatization” of the Panama Papers.

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