Wikileaks founder Assange to host 'Russian TV show'

Julian Assange attends a press conference in London, 1 DecemberImage source, AFP
Image caption,
There was no immediate confirmation Mr Assange was going to air on RT

Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, is to host his own TV show, reportedly on a Russian state satellite channel.

He plans to interview "key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world", Wikileaks said in an announcement.

Mr Assange is fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

Reports Moscow would broadcast the show could not be immediately confirmed.

Neither Mr Assange nor his production company could be reached for comment on Wednesday morning.

Wikileaks website published a mass of material from leaked diplomatic cables, embarrassing several governments.

The Swedish authorities are seeking to put its founder on trial on accusations of raping one woman and "sexually molesting and coercing" another in Stockholm in August 2010.

The 40-year-old Australian, who is on conditional bail ahead of a UK Supreme Court hearing next month, says the allegations are politically motivated.

'Amazing show'

Reporting plans for Mr Assange's TV show, Wikileaks said it would begin airing in mid-March, in 10 weekly half-hour episodes.

Of Mr Assange, it said: "Both a pioneer for a more just world and a victim of political repression, he is uniquely placed to catalyse a global discussion on how to go forward."

Julian Assange himself was quoted as saying: "Through this series I will explore the possibilities for our future in conversations with those who are shaping it.

"Are we heading towards utopia, or dystopia and how we can set our paths?"

On Wednesday, the RT website announced: "Cyberspace's most famous activist, Julian Assange, is launching his own talkshow, to be broadcast exclusively on RT.

"The program, written and hosted by the founder of whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, will focus on his favorite topic: controversy."

Margarita Simonyan, the channel's editor-in-chief, tweeted: "Assange will record the programme under house arrest.

"I am sure it will be an amazing show."

'Sold to the Kremlin'

RT, an English-language satellite TV channel funded by the Russian state, covers international events from its studios in Moscow and Washington, with bureaux from Tel Aviv to Delhi.

It has been accused by media analysts of strong pro-Kremlin bias in its coverage.

Reports that Mr Assange would be appearing on RT were greeted on Twitter with a mixture of disbelief and anger from some.

Journalists asked how impartial the Wikileaks founder could be on a channel so closely tied to the Russian authorities.

"So, how exactly will Assange reconcile his belief in transparency/freedom with selling a show to the Kremlin?" asked Miriam Elder, Moscow correspondent for the UK's Guardian newspaper, which reported much of the secret material released by Wikileaks.

Claudia von Salzen, a journalist with Germany's Der Tagesspiegel, tweeted: "Has Julian Assange ever heard the story of the Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky? He died in jail after accusing officials of fraud."

Some Russian journalists expressed admiration for RT's apparent media coup.

Ashot Gabrelyanov, CEO of Russia's News Media group, joked: "I expect to hear opposition supporters shouting: 'Assange is Surkov [ie Kremlin] propaganda'."