15 January 2015
Whistle-blowers can now leak information anonymously via AfriLeaks, a new website set up by 19 media outlets and activist groups across the continent, which is committed to “speaking truth to power”, according to the platform.
AfriLeaks is a secure and anonymous method of leaking information to any one of the 19 receiver newsrooms, which include Mail & Guardian, News Day, The Africa Report, The Zimbabwean, Botswana Guardian and 100 Reporters. The platform is a joint project of the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights (Hermes).
It uses GlobaLeaks software, which AfriLeaks explains is specifically designed to protect the identities of the submitter and receiver in the exchange of leaked materials. The software is developed by Hermes, a non-profit organisation.
GlobaLeaks is an open source project aimed at creating a worldwide, anonymous, censorship-resistant, distributed whistle-blowing platform.
AfriLeaks aims to expose politicians and businessmen who abuse power in Africa, and its founders say it is an attempt to boost investigative journalism to expose widespread corruption and human rights abuses. It will also help to circumvent growing surveillance by governments and corporate firms, they say – necessary in a post-Snowden world.
“We’ve designed a system that helps you to share [confidential documents of public interest] while protecting your own identity, so that it becomes impossible to identify you as the source of the leak,” the founders explain on the site.
Whistle-blowers are able to send documents and select which of AfriLeaks’ member organisations should investigate it. The whistle-blower is also able to stay in touch and answer further questions without revealing his or her name or contact information.
However, they are advised to take precautions in leaking sensitive information. “Leaking is never without risk. AfriLeaks tries, as much as possible, to protect information and to provide information about the risks.
“The system makes finding the source of a leak close to impossible. Our receivers are journalists [who] have been trained in the use of state-of-the-art security tools and procedures.”
The Mail & Guardian says AfriLeaks is an offshoot of GlobaLeaks, an initiative which aims to help media houses in Europe in the same way, with the aim of making whistle-blowing safer. “In the post-Snowden world in which we live, with government and corporate surveillance a reality, it has become critically important for journalists and whistle-blowers to take every precaution to ensure their digital safety,” the paper reports.
Edward Snowden, a former American security contractor, is in exile in Russia. The US wants to put him on trial for leaking to the media in 2013 details of mass surveillance programmes.
“We are confident that AfriLeaks is the safest way to anonymously leak to us,” the Mail & Guardian says. “We take the safety of our sources very seriously, and strongly recommend that whistle-blowers use this programme when leaking sensitive information to us.”
There is a step-by-step guide explaining to whistle-blowers how to upload documents, how to secure devices as much as possible, and how to keep in touch with the platform after contact has been made.