French minister praises Assange's support of media freedom
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Thursday she found WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange an interesting person "determined to support freedom of expression."
Assange has drawn anger from politicians around the world, including France, for his website's release of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables.
Asked on the Canal+ channel if she preferred Assange or Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, she replied: "It is difficult because they are really interesting personalities, both of them determined to support the freedom of expression which seems to me to be one of the basic freedoms."
On Assange, she said: "I am not congratulating everything he has done but I think that at the heart of his actions is freedom of expression with its consequences, its inconveniences."
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon last week condemned the leaks as "theft and receiving stolen goods."
Before him, the minister in charge of the digital economy, Eric Besson, said he was in favour of banning in France the hosting of the WikiLeaks website on the basis that it violated diplomatic secrecy.
Assange was released on bail in Britain Thursday, nine days after handing himself in to authorities when Sweden issued an arrest warrant for his questioning over alleged sexual assault.
He has vowed to clear his name and says the allegations are politically motivated because of his website's leaks.
© 2010 AFP