Whistle-blower website Wikileaks, facing financial troubles in the wake of its founder Julian Assange's legal cases, is now selling merchandise like T-shirts and coffee mugs online to raise money to keep itself afloat.
Wikileaks has launched an online store that sells everything from T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, bumper stickers to bags, covers for laptops and iPads, umbrellas, baseball caps and even teddy bears.
The website says "all proceedings will go to Wikileaks operations" and asks people to "keep us strong". The merchandise has images of Assange as well as the Wikileaks logos. T-shirts of different sizes are available for men and women.
Some shirts show the white-haired Australian dressed as the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. Another T-shirt shows Assange gagged with an American flag and has the caption 'The Truth Is Not Treason'.
Slogans like 'Viva la Información!', 'Truth Will Out', 'Support Wikileaks', 'Free Assange' and 'Courage Is Contagious' are printed on the items. The range of the merchandise is USD 17 to USD 57. The site, hosted by German merchandising company Spreadshirt, also offers a 17 per cent discount on purchases of USD 35 or more.
Customers can chose from 16 countries to shop the merchandise. The site's legal page states that "the accountability for this online shop in terms of copyright law is: Wikileaks." Spreadshirt, which has sold T-shirts for pop groups like the Spice Girls and Boyzone, says WikiLeaks has "better than average" sales potential.
"WikiLeaks is an emotional proposition: People love it or hate it. For those that love it and wish to show support for WikiLeaks by wearing a T-shirt, it is a good proposition," the company said. Trouble for Wikileaks started ever since the website leaked thousands of classified US documents.
WikiLeaks' financial woes grew when Paypal, MasterCard and Visa cut off all processing of donations to the site. According to Assange, the site lost approximately USD 650,000 since this funding was cut off. At its peak, the site was receiving approximately USD 130,000 in daily donations.
Assange's legal bills are also mounting as he fights extradition from the UK to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about rape and molestation charges. Assange has not been formally charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing. To keep his company afloat and manage funds for his legal battles, Assange also inked a USD 1.3 million deal with the US publishing house Alfred Knopf and British publisher Canongate to write his autobiography.
Assange had set up a fund-raising site — www.dinnerforfreespeech.com — to encourage supporters to hold dinner parties and make donations, in support of him and WikiLeaks.