Kristinn Hrafnsson interview, a spokesman for Wikileaks: “Manning is a political prisoner who worked for a better world”

18/12/2011, Serrano Pascual / Micol Savia / Public

Kristinn Hrafnsson is called and, after the judicial harassment of Julian Assange, has come to the forefront as a spokesperson and public representative of Wikileaks. It states that for safety reasons, beside him, there are only two other people whose identity as members of the association is known. Born in Iceland and physical appearance just Assange enigmatic fellow, he spent twenty years working in journalism audiovisual addressing his country’s most complex and controversial issues. He has been twice to Iraq to collect testimony from victims, has written stories about the corruption of the banks bankrupted in 2008, researchers assumed that labor and reprisals that were silenced by the media, but that could spread on the Internet. In mid-2009 investigations of Hrafnsson Wikileaks and cross to address both the dark accounts of Kaupthing Bank, an Icelandic bank would end up in bankruptcy ten months later. In late 2009 and Assange know, from that famous video released by Wikileaks of a U.S. Apache helicopter strafing civilians who went around the world 1 , began working together. Hrafnsson chooses to present itself as a professional who has “twenty years in journalism, most of them in traditional media, always with a very critical position, then I got a prize, but I’ve been fired more times than winning.”

Hrafnsson, during a press conference in October 2010 in Londres.LEON NEAL (AFP)

Last July, Forbes magazine in February , the difficulties of Assange to travel and lead a public life, placed Hrafnsson as the new face of Wikileaks, “a second spokesman for Wikileaks, which had become the center of attention in recent months. ” The magazine said it could not contact you, we were with him at a conference in Brazil in the city of Foz de Iguazú, in the so-called triple border with Argentina and Paraguay.

The soldier Bradley Manning leads and a half years in prison on charges of having provided information on the cables to your organization, and could be charged with up to 22 counts of violating the military code, including one for “high treason” which is punishable by the death penalty. This Saturday marks the second day of the hearing. Wikileaks Have you taken any steps being interested in him? What do you think your situation?

The most important thing we have done and we believe is fundamental to pressure people to support Manning. We tend to protect our sources, and the best protection we can give is that of not knowing who they are. Only a hero would dare to carry out most secret information leakage contemporary history. If indeed the source of Private Manning Wikiliks was no doubt that he is that hero. And as such, should be given all necessary support. We have contributed in some small measure to his defense, a fact that has been complicated by the blocking of financial institutions, such as your lawyer has a bank account at Bank of America, one of the entities that has blocked his legal defense is not completely cover and we will continue to contribute to that defense. I think everyone should consider it as an American political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience, I repeat, if indeed it is the person who provided all this information, he acted for the good of humanity, to improve the world.

In recent weeks, you have warned of the serious danger of a financial and economic infeasibility of Wikileaks, what is the situation and what is that?

We are suffering the consequences of an embargo and blockade bank from a year ago last December. What has happened is that entities such as Visa, Mastercard, Western Union and Bank of America have decided to block any donation to Wikileaks. Until now we were in a very good economic situation, donations cover our operating costs, many people generously gave us money, keep in mind that each individual donation was $ 25 dollars and donors were thousands and thousands. They were also up over the years, this allowed us to do our job. Twenty-four hours before we received 130,000 euros but after we blocked everything and now our income is about 7,000 euros a month, so that prevented 95% of our revenues.

At this time we do not know how to cope if the situation does not improve, that is, if we remove the lock and if people do not find the way to continue to donate, they soon find ourselves in a very precarious situation. I think it’s very important to say that the blockade imposed by banks to Wikileaks is unprecedented, never happened before. Usually the companies that manage these bank cards do not care to know what people spend their money. With Visa and MasterCard can buy the most disgusting pornography on the web, you can support the Ku Klux Klan, you can financially support the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine and Israeli extremist groups … With these credit and debit cards through internet, you can buy semiautomatic weapons, but you can not donate to Wikileaks. It is absolutely critical that we fight it and let people know that our societies have not only been severely damaged by the greed of the banks, which increasingly control our lives, but now they also want to decide who we support and who is not .

The information you got on the wires from the U.S. State Department, called cablegate, decided to put it, at least at first, only available from five major newspapers in the first world. Then in a second phase a year later, made ​​public the entire contents and discovered that he had information that this group of newspapers omitted. What is your assessment of that decision and the behavior of these pool of newspapers?

You’re absolutely right, we believe our original partners did a good job with the material, if that situation arise again, we would use another completely different strategy, as long as we decide to work with the mainstream media. D and anyway we have to think about the situation in which we were then, in July 2010 we were working with an immense amount of material on Afghanistan in October with Iraq, the wires at the end of November. We were looking for a strategy, because we were a virtually unknown organization that was holding the biggest leak in history. It took hard work and needed a platform to attract worldwide attention on these leaks. So we decided to work with these great resources, cooperate with them, but soon they decided they were the ones that we used as a source without telling us how they would disseminate this material, the conflict arose immediately. Say that it was an ordeal from which we learned a lot, now we are in a very different position, we are a recognized and trusted organization. You do not need, does not mean that we will not work with traditional media, but we do not need as needed at first. We have been criticized for working with these giants, but given the circumstances and the situation in which we found ourselves with all this massive material to draw the attention of world public opinion, we were forced to choose this path. At least the damage was not so bad because even the stories that newspapers like The Guardian, The New York Times and El Pais did not want to publish, in the end they have been told by other means. We were able to bring them out to work with other newspapers, for example in England with the Daily Telegraph, working with local media in Latin America, several individual journalists or associations. The only damage that has occurred, in my opinion, has been to the credibility and reputation of media such as The New York Times, The Guardian and the rest to hide some stories that would have to report.

¿Other partners would choose now if they had similar information or equally important? If so, they would ask for money for the information?

No, no, no, we do not sell information, but hypothetically speaking I do not see why we could not sell it, there is a weekly working with us, with our material, increased sales by 40%. The Guardian, while spreading our information, sales increased dramatically. But we never think about winning disseminating this material, we decided not to sell quickly, we are quite fundamentalist about it. And considering the generous donations of people who receive no charge for the information needed. Vendors are not news, just look them out. But even if Wikileaks never sold information, nor is it our intention, there is no reason not to sell. It is difficult to answer your question about whether we would do it now, because our situation now is very different, and you can not go back.

But if you change partners, who would choose in the future?

In the future, to some extent, they would work with traditional media, I mean some means we have very good cooperation and have made ​​good use of the material they provide. Today we have almost a hundred contracts with different ways to cooperate with them, we used this time to build a close relationship with media of all kinds, from individual journalists to the second most widespread of the world newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan. We had good relations with the Indians, a clear and fraternal cooperation. Despite conflicts with our original partners, relations with the media in general has not been bad. Anyway we are always seeking new ways of working to bring to light information. But I insist that we do not need as before, now we can put our information on the web and do not go unnoticed. Ultimately depends on the circumstances, the type of material, or if there is something better for television, print or web, ie also depends on the type of material and support. On the other hand, we are very interested in the ethics of journalists and how we can use our connections to improve the world of information. So today even consider working with certain blogs or advocacy organizations, we are not reflected in this ridiculous commitment to the idea of objectivity that promote modern media, a fashion absolutely absurd. We will consider any options when it comes to getting information to the public.

But these great means not only made ​​money, but also thanks to Wikileaks and legitimacy, however, were varied to a certain hostility towards you, what do you think of this evolution?

Well, I’ve been a journalist for twenty years and know that you can not trust much in the media and you can not expect gratitude for his part, is difficult to work with them. When they attack us, just show what they are, this is important. Part of what we did last year with this great project has been also expose how vulnerable and how bad they are losmedios. And this is something positive, because the public opinion show that one can not rely heavily on these people, even the prestige of the Times newspaper or The Guardian, and that citizens should read the news with a very critical attitude.

In Latin America the situation is very complicated, have been criticized by people with whom we have worked in that region. It is likely that these criticisms are based on a measure. In Latin America, where the media are concentrated in the hands of large industrial interests, it is clear that the media are not the voice of the people, for example, Mercury is not the voice of the people of Chile. I tell a story last year in late August, 24 and 25, I was in Santiago de Chile where he was invited to speak at IX Seminar Daily Group of America. As is known, are all means of right and quite hostile to any m ovement or social change. The newspaper was the host, after the coup in Chile, put on its cover the list of people who end up being victims of Pinochet, are therefore not the best examples of journalism. In this seminar I attended, these big media publishers in Latin America were sitting around a table, I was invited to speak and asked, “how can we reach new generations with our information and content?”. At the same time, during the two day event, young people, precisely in the center of the city, were protesting and were repressed by the police, after the seminar I went to see those students who are fighting the government of Piñera. This shows the misery of the press and its journalists, who are sitting thinking about how to connect with people, while demonstrating that people are at the heart of the city and is repressed by the police with the support of the press. The day following the unrest, with 1,400 people arrested, many beaten and shot dead a police, spoke Mercury in front of 492 police officers injured. We know that the situation is complicated. We hope in future also collaborate and support good journalism, together with us, fight for our ideals of justice, transparency and combating corruption. This is what we want for our future work with that good journalism still exists.

It is obvious that the media have focused on the figure of Julian Assange to refer to Wikileaks, but is there any other representative of your organization who has suffered some form of harassment or prosecution by any power?

For us, it has been almost positive that all attention is concentrated on Julian Assange, is like a lightning rod that centralizes all the attention, but also all the criticism and hatred. He is in a very complicated and is who else is making sacrifices for the organization, no one from our group has received death threats as has happened with Assange, but we have done everything possible to protect them, many of our partners are anonymous. Besides myself, as a matter of safety, there are only two other people who are known to work for the organization. The modern media have difficulty working with ideas, for them it is easier to focus attention on an individual, an actor, a star or Julian Assange. It is very comfortable with his situation, but this is the way to modern media like to portray the stories: creating stars or destroying them. Eleanor Roosevelt 3 once said that small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, but the great minds discuss ideas. If we take this equation to the media, many of them are just small minds.

Serrano Pascual is a journalist. His latest book is “Against neutrality. Following the footsteps of John Reed, Ryzard Kapuścińsky, Edgar Snow, Rodolfo Walsh and Robert Capa” . Editorial Peninsula. Barcelona

1 Available with Spanish subtitles on

2 Greenberg, Andy. ” Meet The New Public Face Of WikiLeaks: Kristinn Hrafnsson . ” Forbes, 07/12/2010

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