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He's no Oprah: Assange takes whistleblowing to TV talk show

The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, attends a news conference at the City University in London Dec. 1, 2011.

LUKE MACGREGOR/Reuters

He's been both praised and pilloried for leaking state secrets. There's also a distinct possibility he could be hauled before a Swedish court to answer charges of rape.

But for now Julian Assange, the world's most famous whistleblower, has a diversion – launching his own television talk show. The show is slated to air in March and has already set off a Twitter-world flurry of suggestions for possible guests.

In a statement late Monday, the 40-year-old founder of WikiLeaks said he would use the 10-part series to take on "key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries" from around the world. "The world tomorrow," will be the theme, as he put it.

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"Are we heading towards utopia or dystopia and how we can set our paths?" Mr. Assange added. "This is an exciting opportunity to discuss the vision of my guests in a new style of show that examines their philosophies and struggles in a deeper and clearer way than has been done before."

In the show's press release, Mr. Assange is described as uniquely qualified for the role given his past as "a pioneer for a more just world and a victim of political repression."

Mr. Assange's television aspirations brought mixed reactions.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic lawmaker who served as an early volunteer for Wikileaks, thought Mr. Assange's show could prove visionary.

"I think he would be extremely good," she said. "He is quite clear and has a different way of seeing things than others. This could be part of the process of rebuilding Wikileaks."

The whistleblower website has languished since sexual assault charges were filed against Mr. Assange, dragging him into a lengthy extradition battle in Britain, where he is due to appear in court again next month.

So far, television critics have been less kind about his prospects. Mr. Assange, say some, is hardly telegenic. Nor is he exactly Oprah-like in demeanour.

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Still, on Twitter hundreds of people have already weighed in with their suggestions for possible guests, including Hilary Clinton, Hosni Mubarak and Barack Obama.

Wikileaks described initial licensing commitments as covering more than "600 million viewers across cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcast networks."

It unclear, however, whether Mr. Assange will be free to take part in the series.

If he loses his extradition appeal, he could be returned to Sweden and placed behind bars. Also, American officials are still weighing whether to charge him with leaking diplomatic cables.

Whatever happens, it will likely make for good TV.

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About the Author

Sonia Verma writes about foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail. Based in Toronto, she has recently covered economic change in Latin America, revolution in Egypt, and elections in Haiti. Before joining The Globe in 2009, she was based in the Middle East, reporting from across the region for The Times of London and New York Newsday. More

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