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Media in China, Arab Middle East suppressing WikiLeaks coverage

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Interpol has placed the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks on its most-wanted list after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him as part of a rape investigation.

In China, the few newspaper stories about the cables that did appear focused mainly on the U.S. government's reaction to the leaks and the possibility that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could face federal charges in the United States.

China's Communist leaders instead seem to be using the WikiLeaks disclosures as a justification for their own tight control of information and broad censorship policies.

"Leaked information could severely damage the social stability of nations that are not able to handle the release of so much sensitive information," China's Global Times wrote. "Countries like China . . . must have a line of defense against a hurtful information campaign."

There was also rife speculation about how so many sensitive documents could have become public - and suspicion, in Beijing and in Arab capitals, that the U.S. government may actually be complicit in the leaks.

"Is there some tacit understanding between the Web site and the U.S. government?" asked the lead editorial in Wednesday's edition of the Global Times, an English-language tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's newspaper, the People's Daily.

"The powerful and ubiquitous CIA has not been able to identify the source of the sudden leakage of diplomatic secrets," the Global Times said. "It sounds more or less unconvincing."

"It's all deliberate," Mozah al-Malki, a prominent Qatari psychologist, told Qatar's Peninsula newspaper, voicing a common sentiment. "We can clearly see through the ploy. The idea of the so-called leaks is to further intensify tension between Iran" and the Arab gulf states.

One common view in authoritarian countries was that dissidents, pro-democracy activists and others might now be more reticent when speaking to U.S. diplomats, not knowing if their private words might be publicly reported - and leaving them to face reprisals from their governments.

"This leaking incident is a big thing," said Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan poet and blogger who has often run afoul of the government and is regularly under surveillance. "The Chinese government restricts freedom of speech, and an incident like this will make a lot of trouble."

Sami al-Askari, an independent Shiite legislator in Iraq, said, "From now on, every official that talks to the Americans has to take into account this is not a secret anymore."

richburgk@washpost.com fadell@washpost.com

Fadel reported from Baghdad; correspondent Janine Zacharia in Jerusalem and researcher Wang Juan in Beijing contributed to this report.


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