WikiLeaks doesn’t want reporters to claim that Julian Assange is a Russian agent or that he has bad hygiene, sending a list of 140 statements the organization does not want journalists to make about its founder.
WikiLeaks sent journalists a 5,000-word email on Sunday, advising them not to make “false and defamatory” statements about its founder, Reuters reported. Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, has come under fire for allegedly working with Russian intelligence to disseminate stolen emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. Both Assange and WikiLeaks have denied these claims, though leaked messages later showed that Assange was in contact with the Trump campaign to coordinate coverage, despite insisting that he had no contact with the campaign.
A report last year from the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper claimed that Assange had secretly met with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during the campaign, and the advisement to reporters on Sunday appeared to take a direct aim at the newspaper’s report.
WikiLeaks sent the email to reporters titled, “Confidential legal communication. Not for publication,” but it was still published by a number of news agencies that had not agreed beforehand to keep any of the information confidential. Newspapers generally require an agreement from both parties before statements are considered off the record, and the unsolicited email did not qualify, some reports noted.
Many shared some of the organization’s demands on Twitter, including many who were critical of the agency’s attempt to sway news coverage of its founder.
In the email, WikiLeaks instructed journalists to be careful in their statements about Julian Assange.
“Consequently journalists and publishers have a clear responsibility to carefully fact-check from primary sources and to consult the following list to ensure they are not spreading, and have not spread, defamatory falsehoods about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange,” the email read.
The email also appeared to take direct aim at the claim that Julian Assange worked closely with Russian intelligence to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. It said the assertion that Assange had ever worked as an “agent or officer of any intelligence service” was false and defamatory.
Some things you aren't supposed to say about Assange:— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) January 6, 2019
- mean to poor cat trapped in embassy with him
- is a front for Russian intelligence
- has helped others act as fronts for Russian intelligence
- believes he is a messianic figure
The list contained a number of other claims it warned journalists not to make, including that Julian Assange bleaches his hair or has bad hygiene. There have been widespread reports of tension between Assange and Ecuadorian officials because of his poor hygiene and failure to look after his cat, which he eventually ended up giving away late last year.