Assange takes chat-show job with state-funded Russian TV

 

Moscow

A TV channel funded by Kremlin will air a chat show hosted by the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in an unlikely collaboration announced yesterday.

Russia Today, which broadcasts from Moscow in English, said that the programme will be written and hosted by Mr Assange, and will feature 10 guests who are "iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders".

"The first episode will be in the middle of March," the channel's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, wrote on her Twitter feed yesterday. "Assange will record it while under house arrest. It will be amazing TV, I'm sure of it."

Working for a Kremlin channel does not seem like an obvious choice for Mr Assange, who has devoted his life to fighting governmental opacity, but Russia Today has made a name for itself as a strident critic of US policy.

"I think it's quite natural that his show will be on RT," said Nikolay Bogachikhin, one of the channel's executives. "RT always tries to go beyond, and see the other sides of any news story." In reality, however, this often means giving airtime to conspiracy theorists, including 9/11 "truthers" and those who believe the Arab Spring was planned and directed by the CIA.

Russia's official response to Wiki-Leaks has been varied. Before the cache of American diplomatic cables was released, an anonymous official from the country's security services threatened to silence the website for good.

But the revelations regarding Russia were fairly tame, and since then Moscow has defended Mr Assange. Russia Today has interviewed the WikiLeaks founder several times, and run many reports suggesting that Sweden's attempts to extradite him are politically motivated.

There was no indication yesterday of whom Mr Assange might choose to interview for his 10-part series, but it is a safe bet to assume that Alexei Navalny, perhaps the closest thing Russia has to its own Assange figure, will not be getting an invite. Mr Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has exposed crooked schemes in companies close to the Kremlin, has come in for particular disdain from the state-funded broadcaster.

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