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Assange denies 'informants deserve to die' claim

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at the centre of another controversy, hitting back at allegations made by a former media partner in a TV documentary that he claimed US informants in Afghanistan 'deserved to die'.

Speaking on WikiSecrets, a special report aired on Tuesday by US broadcaster PBS, British journalist David Leigh from the UK's Guardian newspaper repeated earlier allegations he'd made concerning a meeting he'd attended with Assange in the run-up to the publication of the Afghan war logs. At the meeting, he said, the issue of redacting names from the logs to protect individuals had been discussed.

"Julian was very reluctant to delete those names, to redact them," says Leigh. "And we said: 'Julian, we've got to do something about these redactions. We really have got to.' And he said: 'These people were collaborators, informants. They deserve to die.' And a silence fell around the table."

Assange last month described Leigh's claim as 'libellous' on Australian news programme 7.30, claiming he was suing the newspaper, which had been one of Wikileaks' leading partners in the mainstream media until a falling-out that saw Assange inking a new deal with the rival Telegraph.

In a full transcript of an interview recorded for the PBS programme, tweeted last night by WikiLeaks, Assange flatly denied making the comment. He claimed Leigh's quote was 'fabricated', and that such insinuations were a 'bog-standard tactic of the Pentagon' - but added:

"Now, if we go to the detail about names, it is right to name names. It is absolutely right to name names. It is not necessarily right to name every name. We're dealing with a situation where we have in Kabul radio stations, who are meant to be independent, who are funded by USAID [US Agency for International Development], taking PSYOPS programming content, psychological operations programming content, to be played on their radio stations as news, but it is actually propaganda. Now, the names of those people involved, do the Afghan people have a right to understand which one of their media channels are propaganda and which one is the true independent? Of course they do."

Widespread criticism followed the publication of the war logs over the level of scrutiny that had been applied to protecting individuals named in the documents. Assange maintains that WikiLeaks engaged in a thorough 'harm-minimization process', but a number of former insiders have claimed that the data was censored hastily, just prior to its release.