Reporters Without Borders deplores that Visa and Mastercard have shut down again their online service payment for Wikileaks. The organization denounces the economic censorship imposed on WikiLeaks and details on its website the various means to donate to the website.
Visa and MasterCard again processing donations to WikiLeaks
Since yesterday it has again been possible to use MasterCard and Visa to make donations to WikiLeaks, although these companies had not responded to an announcement six days ago by Datacell, the Icelandic company that collects donations for WikiLeaks, that it intended to sue them.
However, neither MasterCard nor Visa has confirmed that they have authorized the resumption of payments, suspended in December 2010. In a message posted on its website yesterday, WikiLeaks said it was uncertain how long this facility would last, and reported that Visa had just said they might close it.
Datacell said in message on its own site yesterday: “We choose to interpret this, as that Visa and MasterCard has in fact given in to our demand that the payment services was reinstated.” Donations can also now be sent via American Express.
WikiLeaks said it was deprived of donations averaging 130,000 euros a day when various international financial institutions including MasterCard and Visa suspending processing of payments in December 2010.
A Visa Europe spokesman said at the time: “Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks’ website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.” MasterCard said its rules “prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”
In a joint press release on 2 July, WikiLeaks and Datacell announced that they intended to bring three lawsuits against MasterCard and Visa (in Iceland, in Denmark and before the European Commission) if the two financial institutions did not resume processing payments at once.
The release accused the two companies of “engaging in an unlawful, US-influenced, financial blockade,” violating competition rules and abusing their market dominance in order to jeopardize the survival of WikiLeaks in the absence of any legal justification.
Finance institutions block payments to WikiLeaks
21 December 2010
Reporters Without Borders condemns the announcements by a series of international banking entities that they will no longer process payments for WikiLeaks. The latest, by Bank of America on 17 December, was preceded by similar announcements by MasterCard, Visa Europe and PayPal.
The state-owned Swiss bank PostFinance has meanwhile announced that it has suspended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s accounts.
When MasterCard announced on 7 December that it was suspending payments to WikiLeaks, it said its rules “prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”
PayPal announced in a company blog on 3 December: “PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”
A Visa Europe spokesman said: “Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks’ website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.”
Bank of America – the bank that WikiLeaks has said will be the subject of another major release of leaked documents – said in its 17 December announcement that it was following the example of MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others because it believed that “WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”
Reporters Without Borders points out that no charges of illegal activities have so far been brought against WikiLeaks or its administrators. By anticipating the possibility of such charges, these banking entities are violating the right of the public to be able to provide WikiLeaks with financial support if they so choose.
By cutting off its sources of funding, these financial institutions could force WikiLeaks to close. If that happens, their decisions, which have no basis in any judicial ruling, would have violated the principle of freedom of expression, a principle enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.