As everybody knows, the Wikipedia is not a genuine encyclopedia which can guarantee accuracy and balance through a professional staff of editors and fact-checkers. It belongs in the category of social media, a peoples’ clearing house of true and false information, akin to a discussion group, Stammtisch, and in some cases to a popularity or beauty contest. Because anyone can participate, whether or not qualified, whether or not objective — lobbies, commercial enterprises, intelligence services all mix-in and spread their ideas, good and bad, and try to influence the perception of reality by selecting positive and negative nuggets of information, praising or vilifying persons and ideas. Although one of the Wikipedia rules is that defamatory material must be immediately deleted, this does not always happen, and when libel is removed, some other “user” or cluster of users can upload it again and again. Some entirely unreliable and propagandistic sources are accepted, whereas other solid sources are rejected. According to what criteria, one may ask. Articles can be blocked for editing and “protected” – interestingly enough, with the aim of “protecting” the wrong information from removal and excluding the expertise of IPs and other users whose accounts are blocked and who are even insulted as “sockpuppets” – a particular kind of censorship proper to the Wikipedia.
As professor of history and professor of international law at various universities, I have always told my students that they can consult the Wiki to get a general idea, but that they must be critical and alert – aware that they can be misled and manipulated by it. Myself, as a former member of the editorial committee of a famous encyclopedia, as author of more than 40 entries in the Elsevier Encyclopedia of Public International Law, the Brill Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations, the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Genocide, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, the Weidenfeld Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Einheit, etc. I cannot recommend the use of the Wikipedia to my students, owing to its unreliable methodology, lack of rigour and balance.
An article on “Alfred-Maurice de Zayas” that was created decades ago by some unknown person in the US has gone through several “edit wars” and many ups and downs.
Demonstrably incorrect statements have been attributed to me, other statements have been taken out of context to suggest entirely different meaning, positive reviews of some of my books by prominent professors of history and international law have been suppressed, whereas negative reviews by politically-motivated authors have been uploaded. Recently a friend pointed out to me that there was new libel in the Wikipedia against me, and that when they tried to remove it, they realized that the article was “protected”. Yet some other users were actively inputting wrong information and taking out whole paragraphs that brought balance to the article. Someone had added labels: “This biography of a living person relies too much on reference to primary sources” (??!!), What does the Wiki want? Hearsay? Bla-bla from the boulevard press? Another label reads “A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with the subject.” What is that supposed to mean? That if someone knows the subject, has worked with the person professionally or has read his or her books, that that person should be excluded from editing? What kind of professionalism is then expected from the Wiki editors ? – that they rely on secondary evidence and rumour? Shocking indeed is that recently a “user” claimed that the President of the Catalan Generalitat had given me 100,000 Euros so that I would do propaganda for the Catalan cause in the United Nations. This is libel not only against me, but against Carles Puigdemont. The source given was a digital right-wing journal in Spain, OKdiario, which has no credibility whatever. And yet this “source” was considered acceptable by the Wikipedia. It is obvious that such a juicy accusation would have been picked up by El Pais, El Mundo, the New York Times, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, if there was any truth to it. Allow me to say that in my entire public career spanning 50 years, never have I been offered – and never have I accepted – any kind of money from a political party, from any government, from any non-governmental organization, from China, Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela. I have drawn my salary as a UN official or as a professor – and all my work for several non-governmental organizations, including my 7 years as President of P.E.N. International Centre Suisse romand, were pro bono – that is, without any remuneration. Only on two occasions was I approached with an offer, 33 and 31 years ago, when the CIA tried to recruit me as a mole. I politely declined the offers, because –although I understand the raison d’être of intelligence services – quite simply I am not gifted as a spy, do not want to stick my nose into other peoples’ affairs — and that is what I told them at the time. I consider myself a patriot, but not an informer or undercover agent.
Another absolutely classical example of dis-information in the Wikipedia is the way they treat my mission to Venezuela – the first in 21 years by a UN rapporteur. Notwithstanding the fact that my report to the Human Rights Council is very complete and that annex I indicates that when in Venezuela I met with members of the Opposition, National Assembly, Chamber of commerce, UN agencies, diplomats, a representative of the Carter Center, 36 ngo’s, many of them anti-government, professors, churches, common people – besides, of course, government ministers and prosecutors – the Wikipedia considered it important to write that the only thing I did was to go across my hotel and photograph the shelves of the supermarket full of charcuterie. Is this a joke? I noticed that some “users” removed this ridiculous statement, but it was put back. I also saw that someone had correctly noted that following my mission recommendations, UN agencies entered into advisory services and technical assistance agreements with the government of Venezuela, that many detainees were released, that other rapporteurs were invited to visit, that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was invited to establish a permanent presence in Caracas, etc. It is not without importance that the second UN rapporteur to visit the country in February 2021 confirmed my findings and that the High Commissioner also asked that the sanctions be lifted, at least during the pandemic. This information confirms that there was “added value” to my mission and that my report made pragmatic and implementable recommendations – and precisely because of it, some user deleted it.
If any of you feel concerned, I invite you to visit the Wikipedia article on “Alfred-Maurice de Zayas” and request that the article be opened for editing and that the defamation and dis-information be removed. You may try writing to this Wikimedia address
maybe this link would also be helpful
you can also suggest additions or deletions on the Talk page:
In the spirit of democratic participation, someone should flag this to the Wikipedia management and hopefully they will take corrective measures – and also adopt preventive measures so that this kind of nonsense stops in the future. I do not think it is appropriate to do this myself. Indeed, I would not touch the Wiki with a twelve-foot pole.