The onetime apparent champion of free speech WikiLeaks has sent out a list of 140 statements reporters are not to write about founder Julian Assange, including that he bleaches his hair, Reuters reports.
“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 ... defamatory falsehoods about WikiLeaks or Julian Assange,” said the missive sent via email to several media organizations, according to Reuters. The 5,000-word message was labeled: “Confidential legal communication. Not for publication.” Reuters did not publish the entire text of the email.
The highly unusual demand was apparently driven by what the WikiLeaks statement described as a “pervasive climate of inaccurate claims about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, including purposeful fabrications planted in ... otherwise ‘reputable’ media outlets,” Reuters said.
The email also criticized a story in The Guardian, which recently reported on alleged links between Assange and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
In 2010 WikiLeaks published thousands of pages of classified information from the Pentagon and State Department leaked by Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Many hailed the leaks for exposing the troubling dark underside of secret U.S. operations, while others accused the operation of putting the U.S. and American lives in danger.
Suspicions arose that WikiLeaks was linked to the Kremlin, particularly after it leaked emails in 2016 from the Democratic Party and officials that were hacked by Russian operatives that hurt Hilary Clinton’s campaign for president. It did not release a single email linked to the Republican Party or Donald Trump.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating any Trump campaign links to Assange or WikiLeaks as part of his probe into possible campaign collusion with Russia into election interference. Russia interfered in the election to sway the election for Trump, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded.
Assange has been hiding out in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, dodging a British arrest warrant that was linked to a Swedish extradition procedure tied to rape accusations. The Swedish case has since been dropped.
The U.S. Justice Department has also secretly filed unknown criminal charges against Assange, a fact that was inadvertently leaked in an unrelated case last year.
Wikileaks did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment and for a copy of its original email to Reuters.