Wikileaks has signed a deal with EPASA, publishers of El Panama America and La Critica, of which the details are unknown. El Panama America started releasing the first cable yesterday, and they say that more is to follow.
However, today Miguel Antonio Bernal voiced what we - and many others - have been thinking as well: Since EPASA was taken over by a group of Martinelli loyalists, our narco-president has now exclusive access to the cables and may very well influence how they will be released (read: use them as yet another tool for persecution of his political opponents).
Was this WikiLeaks' intention? We hope not. More likely is that it's the result of Assange's flawed strategy of working with "established" media.
Originally, Spanish daily El País had the publication rights for the Latin American cables, and published various articles about Panama. However, they first slowed down and then stopped publishing altogether, with one exception just days ago when they ran a story quoting from cables that portrayed Martinelli as a "threat to democracy" - without actually publishing the cables themselves.
It is a good idea to sign up local publications to work with the trove of material, because more global media outlets like El País and The Guardian don't know enough about Panama for example to adequately report on the content of the cables. It is not a good idea, however, to then work exclusively with local papers that are de facto owned by the government that has already been described in those same cables as corrupt, anti-democratic, anti-journalism and in bed with arms and drug traffickers.
Your Bananama Republic - full disclosure - requested those cables as well, but suggested to WikiLeaks that they be analyzed by a group of journalists from various publications in Panama who would then publish about them in English and Spanish.
EL PANAMA AMERICA SCREWS UP ALREADY
Again, we don't know why Assange decided to work with a publisher that not only is a government vehicle, but also has a long proven track record of corruption in journalism, with reporters running fake stories for bribes. Just today, El Panama America referred to the famous Otterloo arms trafficking case, described in a cable about the Supreme Court, as a deal to sell arms to the Colombian marxist FARC guerrilla group, while in fact the arms were sold to the ultra right-wing Paramilitary AUC that was under contract with Chiquita to suppress labor unions. This type of "errors" devalues and taints the important stories that are to be harvested from the cables.
What we do know is that the "Wiki" component of WikiLeaks, the part where readers would analyze and contribute to the site with articles etc. just like on the famous WikiPedia, never took off. That may have been disappointing for Assange, but doesn't mean that it will never work anywhere or that the only way to get the stories out is to work with rogue "established" media corporations. After his experiences with the New York Times, we thought he would know better than that.