Terror chief first guest on Assange cable talk show


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The Independent Online

If you can't beat them join them. Julian Assange, pictured, has long complained that mainstream media organisations have given him a hard time, but that hasn't put him off reinventing himself as a cable talk show host, the results of which were revealed yesterday.

Despite being under house arrest for nearly 500 days, the Australian-born transparency campaigner has struck a deal with the Kremlin-backed broadcaster Russia Today to conduct a series of interviews with "people who normally don't get a voice".

The first episode aired yesterday afternoon and quickly made global headlines as it emerged that Mr Assange's first guest was Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shia militant network Hezbollah. While Mr Nasrallah occasionally speaks to the Arab press through Hezbollah's television station, he rarely gives interviews to Western outlets especially after his group's 2006 war with Israel forced the 51-year-old cleric into permanent hiding.

With his subject unable to travel to Britain – which proscribes Hezbollah as a terrorist group – the show's host had to make do with interviewing his guest over video link. The WikiLeaks founder, meanwhile, has been forced to conduct and film all his interviews from Ellingham Hall, the sprawling country house in Norfolk where he is confined to under his bail conditions.

In an interview publicising the series, Mr Assange described how his own difficulties in dealing with the media made him an interviewer that could relate to his subjects.

"As someone who has given a lot of interviews before and has been on the receiving end of very aggressive interview style I found that I wasn't giving much away in these interviews," he said. "I wanted to have a different sort of approach with other people."

Both Russia Today and WikiLeaks are keeping quiet about who else has been interviewed for the series. It is believed activists from Bahrain and the Occupy movement will be given air time.

Mr Assange has been criticised for choosing Russia Today to syndicate the show given that it is paid for by Moscow and represents a vociferously pro-Russian view.