MOSCOW Jan 26 Kremlin-funded English
language channel Russia Today has given WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange his own TV talk show, the station said this week.
Filming for Assange's television debut is already underway
from Britain, where he remains under house arrest outside London
while appealing an extradition order to Sweden, it said.
Russia Today - considered a Kremlin exercise in image
enhancement by critics - said Assange will invite 10 "key
political players, thinkers and revolutionaries" for interviews
on a show dubbed "The World Tomorrow", due to air in mid-March.
"Everything we do on the air is different from the
English-language mainstream, that is something we have in common
with Assange," RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan told
"The show is a perfect fit for RT's motto: 'Question more',"
she said. "We are counting on it attracting the interest of a
Simonyan refused to say how much Assange will be paid for
the chat show.
Beamed to 430 million cable subscribers worldwide, the
Kremlin channel offers a rare public platform for a man whose
WikiLeaks website has come under intense pressure after
publishing a raft of secret U.S. diplomatic cables and seen its
ability to fund itself crippled.
Assange, a 40-year-old Australian, has said the refusal of
many financial transactions firms - including Visa, MasterCard,
PayPal and Western Union - to work with WikiLeaks have damaged
the website's ability to continue its work.
Assange is expected to appear before Britain's Supreme Court
on Feb. 1 to appeal an extradition order to Sweden, where he has
been accused of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish
Vladimir Putin, who has ruled Russia since 2000 as president
and prime minister, has blasted Assange's 2010 arrest as
Russia Today kept secret about the names of potential
guests, saying only Russian opposition figures may be among
them, but speculation was rife on social media websites about
who could be invited onto the show.
Media analyst Konstantin von Eggert said he expected to see
Assange interview Russian allies and anti-establishment guests
such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan leader
Hugo Chavez and left-leaning U.S. academic Noam Chomsky.
"Julian Assange is famous for his anti-American and
anti-Western views, that is exactly why Russia Today is hiring
him as a journalist," said von Eggert, a commentator for
Kommersant FM radio.
"So this partnership is logical.... It has nothing to do
with freedom of speech or real journalism."
Russia Today - whose YouTube channel has had a record half a
billion viewers - made headlines a year ago when U.S. airports
refused to put up one of its controversial advertisements.
The billboards comparing Ahmadinejad and U.S. President
Barack Obama with a tagline asking, "Who poses the greater
nuclear threat?" did appear at airports across Europe.
(Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Alissa de
Carbonnel and Paul Casciato)