Julian Assange’s interview with Hezbollah leader Sayyid Nasrallah sparked a wave of media reaction and saw Twitter trends set as Assange’s crew blacked out show credits in a controversial protest.
Assange’s team told RT "Many of the people who were credited in the Collateral Murder video [exposing US troops killing Iraqi civilians in 2007] are now wrapped up with the US Grand Jury against us as a result. The 1st Amendment in the US and its protection of journalists is under assault by the US government and we have redacted the names of the crew in protest."
The decision by Assange’s production crew to blur the show’s credits to protect themselves from possible threats by security agencies was “…a nice touch but there may also be serious political and legal reasons for this,” according to RT’s Crosstalk host Peter Lavelle.
“The US, Israel, Canada and The Netherlands deem Hezbollah a “terrorist group,” while the UK and Australia deem Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist group, and there may be laws against contact with this political party”, explained Lavelle.
“In a recent US Supreme Court decision (Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, June 21, 2010) the Court upheld material support provisions that prohibit otherwise protected free speech. The Court said that Congress could prohibit conflict resolution, humanitarian aid and other groups from providing training or expert advice to terrorist groups, even when that assistance is aimed at preventing violence.”
See the blanked-out credits in the video below
The long anticipated premiere saw tweeters take #ExpectAssange and #TheWorldTomorrow to global trend status on Tuesday. The Mainstream media’s response, foreseen by RT and the Wikileaks co-founder, runs the gamut from “hats off” to the more predictable “that’s off.”
“Interviewing Hassan Nasrallah [is a] clever move by Assange. He's a perfectly legitimate Lebanese power player to i/v and will generate headlines,” tweeted Jerome Taylor, a reporter with The Independent newspaper.
“How fitting: Julian Assange's first guest is Hassan Nasrallah, both in dire need of some good PR after creating messes, for being obnoxious,” remarks Emile Hokayem, a Mid-East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, via her Twitter account.
Business Insider International was impressed. “While watching Julian Assange's new [RT] talk show, "The World Tomorrow", is not going to convince anyone that the embattled Wikileaks founder isn't a megalomaniac, we have to say we were pleasantly surprised by the relatively tasteful show.”
“Assange show less-than-gripping. Were questions agreed in advance? And how much is Kremlin paying Julian?” was the response from The Guardian’s Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent who fell out with Assange after publishing a book on the Wikileaks cables affair.
Before the premiere, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan had suggested some might call for RT to be censured over the highly controversial subject of Assange’s first interview. A truthful voice to many, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and his Lebanese Hezbollah party are branded terrorists in six countries and he himself has not made a Western media appearance in a decade.
Artistic support for Assange’s cause (he’s been under UK house arrest without charge for 500 days) was audible in the “The World Tomorrow” theme tune – coming from none other than M.I.A. herself.
The Sri Lankan hip-hop star says she met Assange in London prior to the show’s launch. M.I.A. has been an outspoken supporter of Wikileaks since the website’s early days, even dedicating an album to the online whistleblower. In turn, Wikileaks referred to M.I.A. (real name Maya Arulpragasam) as the “the Julian Assange of pop music.”
Despite the multi-media storm over Assange’s first guest, and the stance taken by his crew against what they perceive as threats to their wellbeing, The World Tomorrow guest list remains tightly under wraps.
Expect the unexpected.