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WikiLeaks founder to host show on Russian TV, if not jailed

January 26, 2012, 15:21 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The Russian multi-language television news channel Russia Today has come to terms with the founder of the controversial website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, of Australia, to telecast his debut show called The Word Tomorrow. In it Assange plans to interview key political figures, thinkers and revolutionaries, including Russian ones. However, the project may fail to materialize for reasons beyond the authors’ control – Britain’s High Court next week may launch the procedure of extraditing Assange to Sweden, where he is accused of sexual crimes.

That Julian Assange will run an exclusive project on Russia Today was announced by the RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan in her micro blog in Twitter. “This is the new author I mentioned in December. Probably, there is no show on our channel that I have looked for with such impatience,” she said.

The project provides for a series of ten interviews, each lasting 26 minutes. The first one is to be aired in March.

“Julian Assange will be interviewing politicians and revolutionaries – all those who in his opinion will be shaping tomorrow’s agenda,” the RT said in a news release.

Simonyan told the daily Kommersant that negotiations with Assange’s representatives began late last year, and were completed at the beginning of January, during her trip to London.

“Assange knows our channel very well, because we have interviewed him several times. Besides, it is widely known that we are fundamentally different from mainstream English-language television channels in terms of coverage. Assange, too, does not fit in with the paradigm of the world media space,” Simonyan said to explain the reasons for the choice of the host.

Asked by the daily Izvestia who had come up with the idea of the project, Simonyan said: “We have always treated with great respect what Julian Assange has been doing, we viewed that in full seriousness. He granted interviews to us many a time. Now I cannot recall who thought it up and who asked whom.”

Russia Today and WikiLeaks have emphatically refused to disclose the names of Assange’s future interviewees. The press-secretary of the controversial website, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has merely told Kommersant that among those invited are statesmen, scientists and thinkers. In his opinion, some of them have already agreed to participate in the show. Hrafnsson explained that the guest speakers would try to identify and analyze the changes that are taking place in the world at a point of bifurcation. Simonyan added that there would be some Russians among Assange’s guests.

The program will be filmed by Assange’s own team at his home in the east of England.

Assange, as follows from what he said, has decided to create his own television program in view of the unstable situation in the world. Experts believe this is going to become a high rating show, because interest towards it will be fuelled with the WikiLeaks row.

The WikiLeaks website won acclaim when it started publishing scandalous documents about military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 the site exposed a huge amount of secret documents of the US Department of State and US embassies around the world. The information leaks led to the resignation of the US ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, Department of State spokesman Philip Crowley, senior aide to Germany’s foreign minister, Helmut Metzner, and executive director of the German space company OHB-System, Berry Smutny.

In a recent interview to the British magazine Rolling Stone Assange said that he and his supporters had played a role in the tide of revolutions that swept the Arab world and the US movement Occupy Wall Street.

“We planned for most of what has occurred over the past 12 months. It is fair to say we're unexpectedly delighted that those plans came to fruition,” Assange said in the seven-page interview to Rolling Stone.

Assange said that he had started adding fuel to what would eventually develop into the “Arab Spring” blaze back in October 2010, when he found out that the law enforcement structures of the Middle East countries were closely interconnected and supported each other in every way. He believes that the document published on the WikiLeaks site forced the secret services of the Arab countries to set their eyes on the internal political struggle, which upset their interaction the stability of the entire Arab world was resting upon.

At the end of last October WikiLeaks stopped publications due to financial constraints. About a year ago the payment systems MasterCard, PayPal and visa terminated their cooperation with the website and refused to accept donations from the users of the scandalous portal. Later, the biggest commercial bank of the United States, the Bank of America, refused to service the project’s accounts. Because of the financial blockade the resource missed tens of millions of dollars.

The WikiLeaks founder got in trouble, too. The Swedish authorities charged him with sexual misconduct and put him on the international wanted list.

In December 2010 Assange was detained in Britain after he had agreed to come to the police of his own accord. Soon he was released on a 200,000-pound bail and has since lived in a private home in the east of England. He has to comply with some stringent conditions set to him at the moment of release. He is obliged to wear an electronic bracelet and report regularly to the police. This does not interfere with his public activity, though.

At the end of February 2011 a British court allowed his extradition to Sweden, but at the beginning of March his defense lawyers filed an appeal. London’s High Court declined it in November, and now Assange has only one hope – for the ruling of Britain’s High Court. The hearings on the case have been scheduled for February.

Assange’s lawyers claim that the charges are politically motivated and all attacks against their client are in retaliation for the activity of the website that he runs. The lawyers and Assange himself are certain that the Swedish authorities would deport him to the Untied States, where he is charged with spying and may face a life term.


MOSCOW, January 26