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Assange shocker: 'Of course I'm a goddamn journalist'

Meanwhile, overhauled whistle-blower system delayed

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is running out of patience with those who question his rightful membership with the fourth estate.

Just hours after receiving Australia's Walkley Award for "recognition of long-term commitment and achievement in the Australian media," Assange appeared by Skype at the News World Summit in Hong Kong. When a moderator asked him if he considered himself a journalist, the mercurial advocate of radical transparency had this response:

“Of course I'm a goddamn journalist.”

According to the AFP news agency, the answer was delivered with “affected frustration” and accompanied by statements that such questions weren't at all the fodder of reporters who are paid to be inquisitive and skeptical, but rather attempts by the United States government to silence the whistleblower-in-chief.

“The United States government does not want legal protection for us,” he was quoted as saying.

Assange's outburst came two days after WikiLeaks said it was indefinitely delaying the release of a new online submission system that was being overhauled to better preserve the anonymity of those who used it to leak secret documents. WikiLeaks, which had previously promised to unveil the refurbished system on Monday, gave no indication when the next-generation system would be implemented.

“Constructing the system is very complex,” WikiLeaks officials said in an accompanying statement. “Due to the deteriorating state of internet security which directly impacts the ability of sources to communicate with journalists and human rights activists securely, WikiLeaks has decided to postpone the launch initially scheduled for Monday 28th 2011 in the interest of source protection. WikiLeaks' new public electronic drop box is substantially more advanced than its predecessor.”

The about-face comes a month after Assange warned that WikiLeaks was on the verge of financial collapse unless it received an immediate infusion of contributions.

WikiLeaks' critics have long claimed the site doesn't do enough to protect those who leak secret documents. Most notable among them is former volunteer Daniel Domscheit-Berg. WikiLeaks' statement didn't say when the new system might be rolled out. Instead, it announced a press conference scheduled for Thursday in London. ®

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