Is This the End of WikiLeaks? Facing Money Woes, Site to Stop Publishing

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Luke MacGregor/Reuters

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a news conference at the Frontline Club in London October 24, 2011

This time last year, Julian Assange was in the running for TIME’s Person of the Year. Now, WikiLeaks is going silent.

At an announcement in London on Monday, the whistle-blowing website confirmed that, due to a financial blockade, it will suspend its publication of classified files in order to make fundraising a priority to ensure its future survival.

“Our scarce resources now must focus entirely on fighting this unlawful banking blockade,” Assange said. “If this financial attack stands unchallenged, a dangerous, oppressive and undemocratic precedent will have been set, the implications of which go far beyond WikiLeaks and its work.”

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Assange explained how the decision made by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union has taken a considerable toll, meaning that 95% of WikiLeaks’ revenue has been destroyed. Those institutions stopped doing business with WikiLeaks in light of their dumping of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables last year.

Rather poetically, Assange was speaking in front of a backdrop that showed upside-down logos of the aforementioned firms, and admitted that the organization had been operating off cash reserves for the past 11 months.

But he’s not giving up quite yet. And while the former computer hacker turned scourge of many a government said that WikiLeaks had lost “tens of millions of dollars in lost donations at a time of unprecedented operational costs,” they intend to “aggressively fundraise in order to fight back against this blockade and its proponents.”

Tough talk — and Assange is attempting to back up his words. He said that the group was to take pre-litigation action against the blockade in the U.K., the U.S., Iceland, Denmark, Brussels and Australia and has also lodged an anti-trust complaint at the European Commission.

U.S. authorities have said that the disclosure of classified information was not only illegal but also posed a risk to individuals and national security. But Assange believes that WikiLeaks’ publications are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and said there were no judgments or charges against his organization.

But there’s no doubt about it — Assange and WikiLeaks’ backs are against the wall. “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,” Assange said. It sounds as if they could do with a good lawyer. Yet in a recent statement about Assange’s contested book deal, WikiLeaks said it didn’t have enough money to hire one. (via BBC)

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Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.