WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange likes to complain about the media, and with the debut of his new talkshow next week, get ready to hear a lot more of it. Today, the promo for his new show on RT, a Kremlin-backed news network, hit the Web and its mantra against the mainstream media coincides with an additional attack on the press he's launching in Britain.
With Assange's face hovering mysteriously in the top half of an hourglass, the 30-second promo (only available on RT's Spanish-language site) already feels like a lecture on the media. "The full source material is what helps keep journalism honest," intones Assange. Giving a vague notion about what his show will be about, he says "there hasn't been anything yet on TV" and "we wanted to present something else." You'll notice today, he's not saving that anti-media schtick for the small screen.
On Thursday he sent a letter to the Leveson Inquiry, the British investigation following the phone-hacking scandal triggered by News International. In it, he compared coverage of his arrest with that of the McCann family saga, a 2007 case in which Portuguese police investigating the disappearance of the McCann's daughter named the couple as suspects, reports the BBC.
Assange writes: "Press standards matter. Those who have been the subject of ongoing, widespread inaccurate and negative media coverage - as I have, possibly on a scale not seen since the abuse of the McCanns - know that the harms created for individuals and small organisations or groups by a failure to maintain high ethical journalistic standards can be severe, consequential and almost insurmountable," wrote Assange. He added that "press falsehood" need to be "disincentivized or they will flourish."
The gist of his complaint is that newspapers including The Observer, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Independent referred to "charges" against him when he hadn't been charged. The complaints were filed with the Press Complaints Commission but the commission found no breach of its code of practice.
While some of his complaints seem legitimate, if this the type of programming we can expect on RT, it's going to be a major disappointment. Main reason being: No one wants a media lesson from Assange, the guy who nitpickers at the Columbia Journalism Review could have a field day with. Like, say, his experience with exposing vulnerable sources due to inadequate security precautions. Should we have a seminar on that, Julian? Or how about teaming up with RT, an arm of the Kremlin, which doesn't exactly have a sparking record on issues he purports to care about, like censorship, investigating the killing of journalists, election fraud, intimidation, and the designation of "the world's most corrupt major economy" by Transparency International in 2011.
In sum, the world is filled with enough punditry about the sins of the mainstream press, which we all know are many. What we would hope the show will focus on is producing coherent documentary-style segments based on the mountain of raw data his anti-secrecy operation has within its walls. He's long complained about how the media combines stories based on WikiLeaks leaks with criticisms of his organization. Here's his opportunity to just tell those stories himself. He shouldn't waste his time on bashing the press.