Reporters Without Borders hails an important legal decision:
Reporters Without Borders hails a ruling by Iceland’s supreme court on 24 April ordering Valitor — Visa’s local partner in Iceland — and formerly called Visa Iceland — to resume processing online donations to WikiLeaks within two weeks or thereafter pay a daily fine of 6,830 dollars until its complies.
“This is a victory for WikiLeaks and freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The arbitrary blocking of payments put in place by financial service companies was completely illegal and has now been condemned as such by a country’s highest court.
“We hope that this ruling will put a stop to the controversial decisions that Visa has been taking until now in connection with WikiLeaks and that Visa will instruct all of its partners and subcontractors around the world to comply. It would be strange, and unacceptable, if only Valitor were obliged to provide a service to WikiLeaks in Iceland while all the other subcontractors, including those in the rest of Europe and the United States, were not.
“We urge all the other the financial service companies that that have been directly or indirectly involved in blocking payments to WikiLeaks to comply with the logic of Iceland’s supreme court ruling without waiting to be legally forced to do so. The financial censorship resulting from these unilateral decisions must be lifted.”
The case dates back to 2010, when several leading financial institutions including Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations and other payments to WikiLeaks, depriving the whistleblowing website of its main source of income and threatening its financial survival.
DataCell, a company that collects donations for WikiLeaks, meanwhile filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing Visa Europe, MasterCard Europe and American Express of violating European Union competition rules when they stopped processing payments to WikiLeaks.
In a preliminary decision in November 2012, the commission said the block on processing donations was unlikely to have violated EU anti-trust rules. Reporters Without Borders urges the commission to reconsider this position in its final decision.
On 19 November 2012, the European parliament passed a resolution asking the European Commission to take the necessary steps to prevent credit card companies from refusing to process payments to companies and NGOs.
This position was shared by the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression and the US treasury department. The European Commission did not however act on the parliament’s request, thereby allowing the block on payments to remain in place.