The president of the Swiss Pirate Party outlines his group's relationship with WikiLeaks. He told Deutsche Welle that WikiLeaks unilaterally announced wikileaks.ch as the official domain name last week.
Denis Simonet is the head of the Swiss Pirate Party
WikiLeaks announced on Friday on Twitter that its new official domain name was Wikileaks.ch, which is owned by the Pirate Party of Switzerland. Like its counterparts around Europe, the party stands for reform of copyright law, abolishing the patent system, the right to privacy, and other digital issues.
Wikileaks.ch forwards to WikiLeaks' site, which is currently being hosted in France. Other European domain names, including wikileaks.de for Germany, and wikileaks.fi for Finland, also point to the new host. To learn more about the relationship between the Swiss Pirate Party and WikiLeaks, Deutsche Welle spoke with Denis Simonet, the party's president.
Deutsche Welle: When did you acquire the wikileaks.ch domain name and why did you decide to acquire it?
Denis Simonet: That was six months ago based on a request from the Pirate Party of Switzerland. WikiLeaks is one sign of a problem that has to be solved. We are for free speech, free media. The media has to safeguard the media and if they can't do it or don't do it, then our democracy is in danger.
Switch, the Swiss registrar, told Simonet that there is no reason to block wikileaks.ch
Did you buy the domain as a measure of support for WikiLeaks, or did WikiLeaks ask you to do it?
We did so for ourselves. We don't host content anyway. It's just a re-direction to the servers. There are many other servers that do the same. You can just register a domain and forward it. It's no big issue. We didn't ask to do it. We just did it because a member thought that it was something the Pirate Party should do to show support.
How did you come into contact with WikiLeaks and with Julian Assange?
That was a totally different story. About three or four weeks ago, he announced in the press that he was seeking a request for political asylum in Switzerland. Our board decided that because the reason that he has to request asylum is that he is the media spokesperson for WikiLeaks and that he is in danger now because he is the media spokesperson. We thought that Switzerland could position itself internationally as a place where freedom of media, freedom of opinion and information is of highly considered status. That's why I tried to get in contact with Julian Assange, so we could help him.
The help was to inform him about how Switzerland works, about how we have a direct democracy, our federal system of cantons. I explained the political and administrate landscape in Switzerland. That was a big part of the discussion. He just listened. He didn't ask for help, he didn't say anything about whether it helps or if he will stay in Switzerland or what his future plans are. He just said "thank you," and that's it.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange met with Simonet in Geneva in November
What was he like? Was he at ease? Did he seem nervous?
He explained to us what the WikiLeaks philosophy is. What he's said in public is what he is. He was exactly what I expected. He has a cause and he wants this cause to be known by the world.
Did you mention that you had the wikileaks.ch domain name?
No, not at all. Wikileaks.ch wasn't part of our discussion. There was no agreement between us. WikiLeaks decided unilaterally to communicate wikileaks.ch as the working, official domain name. The redirection worked for six months and we didn't change anything. We didn't get a notice. We just saw the tweet and then the media began to run to us.
WikiLeaks continues to be a thorn in the side of many governments around the world
Have you had any contact with any law enforcement from Switzerland, or anywhere else in Europe, or the United States?
No. No one. And we haven't had any contact with WikiLeaks, by the way. We don't have contact with them anymore, since that meeting.
Members of the American government have said that they want WikiLeaks to return the data it has released and to stop its operation. Are you surprised by the government reaction from the technical side?
No. It's well-known that sometimes governments don't really know what they're talking about when it comes to technical stuff. That's why we exist. No one understands what digital politics means. We are fighting to improve that situation - we are working to have digital politics for Switzerland. I think that it won't help if people know that we have wikileaks.ch, but it will help if we can start discussions about digital politics.
Interview: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Sean Sinico