WikiLeaks’ practice of releasing leaked American military and diplomatic data exclusively through selected media partners was roundly criticised at the annual conference of investigative journalists held by the Norwegian SKUP foundation.  Reporters from Norway and Britain, together with other speakers, urged WikiLeaks’ spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson to try to persuade Julian Assange to release leaked information on the WikiLeaks website rather than via selected media partners so that it would be available simultaneously to journalists around the world. An hour long debate between Hrafnsson and two investigative journalists from The Guardian, David Leigh and Nick Davies, ended acrimoniously with the tenor of the conference supporting the view that WikiLeaks should ditch its policy of collaborating with a limited number of media partners. After Hrafnsson confirmed that Assange, WikiLeaks founder, was currently collaborating with another chosen “group of media partners” for a further unspecified release of “important” leaked information – which WikiLeaks hoped would repeat the degree of interest already achieved by the “biggest leaks so far in military and diplomatic history’ – there were complaints about the tactics which Assange had adopted. But Hrafnsson made it clear that The Guardian, which was one of WikiLeaks initial partners, would not be included in future collaborative deals because of a breakdown in relations with the paper.  At this point in the debate, a Norwegian business journalist criticised an exclusive collaborative deal which WikiLeaks had established with the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten; another reporter called for all future releases to be made available simultaneously to all journalists via the WikiLeaks website.  Reporters from Aftenposten piled on the pressure by supporting a complaint by Index on Censorship about WikiLeaks’ collaboration with the journalist Israel Shamir who has been accused of passing on leaked data to the head of administration for President Lukashenko of Belarus. David Leigh backed up Aftenposten’s criticism: he said WikiLeaks should not have co-operated with a “known anti-semite” journalist working in Belarus and Russia; Leigh feared it had opened up the risk of leaked diplomatic cables being used by propagandists in Belarus and the Kremlin.   Kristinn Hrafnsson confirmed that cables had been supplied to Israel Shamir but he insisted the claim that the data had been passed to the government of Belarus was “unfounded...there was no confirmation of that”.  He rounded on his critics and gave a robust defence of WikiLeaks’ policy of exclusive collaboration with chosen partners. It was after the release of the US Apache “collateral murder” video showing civilians being gunned down in Iraq that WikiLeaks decided initially to collaborate with three partners, The Guardian, New York Times and Der Spiegel, over the release of 90,000 Afghan war logs and 400,000 US field reports from Iraq.  Le Monde and El Pais were included in the subsequent release of 250,000 US State Department diplomatic cables. “What WikiLeaks has now established is an ongoing approach towards getting information out to media organisations around the world” said Hrafnsson. “We now have close to fifty media partners and we are now getting very good collaboration, for example, with new partners in India and Latin America. “There will always be material of specific interest to specific regions of the world where we want to have the collaboration and assistance of the journalists who know the area.  “We are more than a source of material, we are publishers...I see WikiLeaks as an additional tool in the journalistic environment, to show journalists the possibilities of the internet and what a platform like WikiLeaks can achieve.”Hrafnsson said there had been no problem with WikiLeaks’s policy of collaboration until The Guardian complained in September 2010 about the inclusion of additional media partners and the claim that this amounted to manipulation.“David Leigh has said that WikiLeaks is just a temporary phenomenon and that it won’t have a permanent impact of journalism...But if we want to get the message out, we have to maximise the numbers of outlets.  We are building a network of trusted partners based on mutual respect and gratitude.”Leigh retaliated on The Guardian’s behalf: “The idea that Julian Assange and a small number of people should pick and choose who will publish the material and who say, if you are nice to me, we will let you have our stuff, but if you are not nice or displease us we will give information to politically way-off partners like the very right-wing Daily Telegraph in England, is that democratic way of having freedom? No, it is the spinning and manipulation which I find unattractive.” (Nicholas Jones was among the contributors to the SKUP conference at Tonsberg, April 1-3, 2011. His presentation was entitled The Rise and Fall of the Spin Doctor. )