The protection of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange under the umbrella of freedom of the press has been a surprisingly controversial subject in the United States. But the US State Department has weighed in today and ruled that Julian Assange doesn’t count as a journalist but is rather a “politcal actor.”
The claim, which was announced by US Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley came with the justification that Assange has an “agenda” behind his activities, which in this case appears to be the goal of seeing the truth revealed to the public, which is wholly incompatible with being a “journalist.”
It is a doubly bizarre claim, both because the historical concept of a journalist involves exactly this, revealing true information to the public, and in that the United States does not formally license journalists nor does there seem to be any basis for deciding who does or doesn’t count.
The Constitution, of course, makes no effort to limit the “freedom of the press” to a specific class of officially approved of journalists, and the term “political actor” appears to have been made up entirely on the spot, which no existing basis under US law as giving a person less of a constitutional right to free speech.
Crowley went on to say that Assange is trying to “undermine the international system” and that he is an “anarchist” for having done so. Assange self-identifies as a libertarian in the American sense, but insists he is not actively political.