10 years on, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as controversial as ever

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, anonymous whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks can look back on a decade that saw it turn classified documents into global headlines and inspire a host of copycat leaks.

But with founder Julian Assange hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy to evade rape allegations and critics accusing the site of being manipulated by shadowy forces for political gain, the organisation is fighting to maintain its image.

An anniversary party in Berlin on Tuesday will commemorate the 2006 registration of the domain name wikileaks.org, while Assange will make a rare public appearance on the balcony of his 18-square-metre room.

WikiLeaks launched in January 2007, with Assange saying it would use encryption and a censorship-proof website to protect sources and publicise secret information.

The site has since published more than 10 million leaked documents.

It first caught the world’s attention when it released manuals for prison guards at Guantanamo Bay.

But it really hit its stride in 2010, unveiling logs of US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a video showing a US helicopter crew mowing down a group of unarmed civilians — including two journalists — in Baghdad.

That same year it also published a cache of diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world, deeply embarrassing Washington.

“The most important single collection of material we have published is the US diplomatic cable series,” Assange told German news weekly Der Spiegel in an interview at the weekend.