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AP Interview: WikiLeaks seeks more media partners

By Raphael G. Satter

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 25 2011 2:00 p.m. MST

FILE - The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange faces the media after making an appearance at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London, in this Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011 file photo, as part of his fight to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he's wanted on sex crimes allegations. WikiLeaks hopes to enlist as many as 60 news organizations from around the world in a bid to help speed the publication of its massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos,Assange said Tuesday Jan 25 2011.

Lefteris Pitarakis, file, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

LONDON — WikiLeaks hopes to enlist as many as 60 news organizations from around the world in a bid to help speed the publication of its massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos, the site's founder said Tuesday.

Julian Assange told The Associated Press that he was making an effort to reach beyond the major newspapers — such as The New York Times and The Guardian — that worked with him on earlier releases, saying that he already has about 20 media partners, and could triple that number within the next three months.

"We're striving for maximum impact for the material," Assange said in a telephone interview, in which he laid out his media strategy.

WikiLeaks has published 2,658 cables to its website — just over 1 percent of the 251,287 State Department cables it claims to have in reserve. Assange said that The Times, The Guardian, Spain's El Pais, France's Le Monde and Germany's Der Spiegel have yet to go through all of the cables, although he didn't say how many of the files remained unread.

WikiLeaks has been accused by senior U.S. officials of reckless disregard in the way it publishes documents, but Assange said — with a few exceptions — he was so far satisfied with the process.

The 39-year old Australian, who is currently staying at a supporter's country home in eastern England, is also fighting attempts to extradite him to Sweden on sex crimes allegations.

Assange has previously expressed frustration with the slow pace of the release of the secret diplomatic cables, and said releasing country-specific files to selected local media would serve to push them out faster.

Sometimes, that could mean doing what Assange called "triangulating the politics of a country" — giving documents to a left-wing paper in a country with a right-wing government, or offering cables to conservative titles in countries with a left-leaning administration.

Media organizations that say they've been given, or have obtained, the cables include NRC Handelsblad and RTL television in the Netherlands, Afternposten in Norway, and Sweden's Dagens Nyheter.

Assange said that all the newly recruited media organizations are being asked to agree to the same rules originally struck with The Times and other publications. The newspapers are asked to remove potentially harmful names or secrets that could endanger people's lives and those cables are then submitted to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks in turn times the cables' release to coincide with the papers' articles.

This arrangement allows Assange to farm out the laborious editing process and helps insulate the online whistle blower from criticism.

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