Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi has worked for some of the country’s top publications including la Repubblica, l’Espresso and, now, Il Fatto Quotidiano. In 2009, she started working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on secret files concerning the war in Afghanistan, the US diplomacy cables and Guantanamo detainees. She also investigated top-secret files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, uncovering serious cases of environmental pollution in Italy and the exploitation of Pakistani workers in a factory operated by an Italian company, among others.
Maurizi was a witness in last month’s Assange extradition hearings. As a London judge ponders over whether to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the US, we spoke to her about her experience making powerful enemies, what she describes as smear campaigns against WikiLeaks and those working with them – and why Assange should never have left Berlin.
How did you become involved with WikiLeaks?
Stefania Maurizi: In 2008, I was working for a leading Italian news magazine l’Espresso. I had already worked as an investigative journalist and when I looked at WikiLeaks publications like the Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedure document I was really impressed. The document had been requested by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pentagon had refused access. WikiLeaks was able to obtain the document, not only that but they had told the Pentagon that they would not remove it from their website. For me this was really important, as it made me realise how much courage the people behind WikiLeaks had. This was around the time when the New York Times were publishing lies about the Iraq war. The Washington Post has published the CIA black sites story, but they had not published the names of the Eastern European countries where the sites were based, because the Bush administration had asked that it not be published, and the CIA was continuing to torture people in these black sites.
When I realised that there was a media organisation that was not willing to obey the Pentagon I knew I had to establish contact because I liked their work and their courage. I did, and in 2009 they called me in the middle of the night and said ‘You have an hour. Go to your computer and download the document otherwise we will remove it.’ They asked me to help them verify whether the document was genuine.