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Financial Blockade Forces Wikileaks to Halt Publishing Operations

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"The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency."

This Aug. 14, 2010 photo shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in Stockholm, Sweden. A Stockholm prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Assange on Friday Aug. 20, 2010, saying he was suspected of rape and molestation in two separate cases. But chief prosecutor Eva Finne withdrew the warrant within 24 hours. (AP Photo/Scanpix/Bertil Ericson, File)

WikiLeaks will “temporarily suspend its publishing operations” because of what it calls a financial blockade being waged against it by financial and banking companies, reports the journal.ie.

At a press conference in London, editor-in-chief Julian Assange said a financial embargo–which includes Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union all refusing to process online donations–has severely hampered the site’s ability to function.

"If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," founder Julian Assange told journalists at London's Frontline Club. "If we don't knock down the blockade we simply will not be able to continue," he added.

Although several U.S. officials criticized the website when it released hundreds of classified U.S. military documents, it wasn't until WikiLeaks began publishing a massive trove of 250,000 U.S. State Department cables late last year that the financial screws began to tighten, reports the Huffington Post.

As a result of the State Department releases, MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Western Union stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and cut off the organization financially.

Describing the blockade as “an arbitrary and unlawful” move, Assange said that Wikileaks had lost 95 per cent of its income, and that the site was now living on “cash reserves,” reports the journal.ie.

Donations were running at around €100,000 ($139,000) per month last year, but had dropped to between €6,000 ($8,300) and €7,000 ($9,700) this year – leading the Wikileak editor-in-chief to conclude that the site had lost somewhere between €40m ($55 million) and €50m ($70 million).

In desperation, Wikileaks has resorted to raising funds from several wealthy backers, including Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith, whose mansion in eastern England has been put at Assange's disposal while he fights extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations, as well as organizing a series of auctions.

Among the items put for sale in the Wikileaks auction: Lunch with the 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder, and the laptop computer he used to organize the U.S. cables release, according to the Huffington Post.

In a separate statement, WikiLeaks said it would have to “aggressively fundraise in order to fight back against the blockade and its proponents”.

“The blockade came into force within ten days of the launch of Cablegate as part of a concerted US-based, political attack that included vitriol by senior right wing politicians, including assassination calls against WikiLeaks staff," the statement read.

“The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency.”

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