In an online chat Monday, the head of WikiLeaks admitted he's never studied to be a journalist. That's not going to stop him from working as one, however.
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has been hiding behind strict laws in European countries that protect journalists from lawsuits. But the law applies only to websites or publications that possess a special license granting them constitutional protection, and WikiLeaks hasn't acquired the paperwork, explained Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.
A writing job would help WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange earn that protection for his site, making him officially a working journalist and allowing him to apply for the license and legal protection. And Swedish paper Aftonbladet has just offered him what he needs: a bimonthly column.
"It's no coincidence that I'm going to be writing for a Swedish paper. The Swedish [publishing] culture and Swedish law have supported us from the beginning," Assange said in a weekend interview with the paper.
His column will focus on press issues and world news, the WikiLeaks chief said, hinting that Aftonbladet may start working more closely with the site as well. By working tightly with traditional media sources, Assange explained that he would be able to "promise our sources maximum exposure of their materials."
It would also help his site to further hide behind laws that safeguard journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.
WikiLeaks will apply for full source protection under Swedish constitutional law this week, the paper reported, a certificate of publication called an utgivningsbevis.
In a wide-ranging online chat Monday morning, Assange also revealed his mixed feelings toward other forms of online journalism, notably Twitter.
"We have over a hundred thousand followers. Twitter is important, although we wish it was not, since as an organization based in the United States, the national security industry can force Twitter to ban any organization," Assange said Monday.
He believes material posted to WikiLeaks to be safer than Twitter is, in that sense. "While it may be possible to stop some of us, it is not possible to stop our future publications," he said, adding that "we understand the importance to history of our upcoming publications."
WikiLeaks frustrated and enraged U.S. government officials by posting more than 76,900 classified military and other documents, mostly raw intelligence reports from Afghanistan, on its website July 25.
The site plans to release an additional 15,000 documents sometime in the next 14 days, information the U.S. government has said would be even more damaging to safety and security. The planned leak has eroded support for the group recently: International journalist organization Reporters Without Borders called WikiLeaks "irresponsible" last week.
The site may also have plans to turn its eye from the U.S. military, to reveal inside information about its host countries as well.
In response to the question, "Will you reveal something about the Swedish politicians?" Assange had a simple, one-word answer: Yes.