A new site, Brussels Leaks, modeled after WikiLeaks, launched out of the blue last Thursday to much excitement in the European capital and the Twittersphere. This follows the announcement of OpenLeaks, a spin-off from WikiLeaks from former workers there. But Brussels Leaks doesn’t plan to run the documents that are leaked to it, but rather rely on the media to distribute the best material.
“We will mainly look at act as an intermediary, passing information to responsible parties,” says a note on the Brussels Leaks site. “We think we are in a good position to do this because we live, work and to a certain extent breathe Brussels. And trust us, Brussels has both poor air quality and transparency.”
I recently conducted an exclusive email interview with an anonymous representative of Brussels Leaks. This exchange is among the first media interviews granted by the fledgling European whistleblower organization.
Why did you feel the need to set up a Brussels/EU focused WikiLeaks-type site? What do you want to achieve?
Brussels Leaks: We have all worked in Brussels for a while and have constantly seen, or heard about, documents floating around which ‘would be great if they could get out in the open.’ People didn’t know how to do this most of the time. In our day jobs we did this, using our networks and contacts, but there were a lot of limits. Having personal connections with ‘people in the know’ means their jobs could be on the line if we revealed the information.
Brussels is a powerful place full of over 15,000 lobbyists who all impact big, international decisions. It’s naïve to think things do not happen behind closed doors (such as European Commission President Jose Barroso attending a plastics lobby dinner — weird?).
This isn’t really for media as much as to help society, and perhaps namely civil society, get their hands on the right information to make their jobs easier.
What do you plan to focus on?
Brussels Leaks: Obviously it’s EU focused which is as broad as you can get. At the moment we’ll try the best with what we get, but obviously anything social or environmental takes priority. We’ll see.
Can you give us a clue as to what leaks, if any, you have in the pipeline?
Brussels Leaks: Transport and energy.
What kind of people leak information on the EU to you? What are their motives?
Brussels Leaks: We meet people all the time working for EU institutions, lobby and industry groups and even NGOs who want to get information out there. They’re often good people who see something they know is wrong, and want to get it known whilst keeping hold of their jobs.
Do you have any direct connections/contact with WikiLeaks? Have they or similar whistleblowing/hacker organizations been in contact with you, or given you advice or assistance?
Brussels Leaks: No, not yet but we are very open to advice and assistance.
What has been the response so far to Brussels Leaks from the institutions/organizations you plan to ‘leak’ information about?
Brussels Leaks: Very quiet publicly but we have heard they have at least half an eye on us.
How do your security and technical capabilities match up to the organizations who may try to stop you?
Brussels Leaks: At the moment, it’s hard to tell. We’re not really anticipating in the short-term anything which would put us under the kind of pressure WikiLeaks witnessed, as many of the leaks we have so far are quite low key. This is Brussels after all. Of course we want to build, improve and develop over time — we have a plan and we won’t overstep our capacities.
Is there anything you would not publish?
Brussels Leaks: We are a small group of people who will try to work to a moral code. We’re not interested in gossip or slander. We are doing this because we want to get important information out in the open, but if it looks to endanger somebody, i.e. lives or jobs, then we will not. We also have high level media contacts outside of this who we can refer leaks onto. We’re not here to get publicity, just to get the information out there.
Are any of you journalists?
Brussels Leaks: Yes, all are either journalists or worked in communications capacities in Brussels.
What is your code of ethics?
Brussels Leaks: Obviously as we are staying anonymous we need to build credibility and a reputation. We will always be truthful, accurate, and fair and want to hold everything up to public accountability.
What can people do to get involved with Brussels Leaks?
Brussels Leaks: We particularly need technical help, which is always appreciated. Otherwise, we’d just want people to be patient with us. We’re probably not going to bring down EU global diplomacy or anything like that, so we just need time.
Learn More About WikiLeaks
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Emma Brewin is a writer, online/multimedia editor and social media manager currently based in Europe. Her areas of interest include media and journalism, Central and Eastern Europe, and alternative and sustainable travel and living.
This story was originally published by the European Journalism Centre, an independent non-profit institute dedicated to the highest standards in journalism, primarily through the further training of journalists and media professionals. Follow @ejcnet for Twitter updates, join us on Facebook and on the EJC Online Journalism Community.Related