Russian media and ‘journalistic independence’

e13-iconA couple of days ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote:

American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true. But one of its leading hosts, Abby Martin, remarkably demonstrated last night what “journalistic independence” means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine:

I imagine most readers here will have already seen Martin’s widely publicized statement. Clearly she was flattered by gaining Greenwald’s attention, whose remarks she featured at the beginning of her next show.

Even so, anyone who thinks that Martin’s statement should be taken as a sign that RT values journalistic independence, is ignoring the reality of the Russian media and the organization she works for and chooses to continue working for despite her opposition to the invasion of Crimea.

RIA Novosti reports: On Wednesday, Izvestia daily newspaper reported that a ruling United Russia party deputy is readying legislation that would, among other things, make it a crime to “allow publication of false anti-Russian information.”

Starting Wednesday, staff at RIA Novosti’s Moscow-based English-language desk was asked to decide whether they wanted to work at [the newly created] Rossiya Segodnya or accept compensation packages. The bulk of the writers and editors for the English-language service have opted for the latter option.

The new agency is to be headed by Dmitry Kiselyov, a notoriously outspoken conservative TV presenter, and will share its editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, with the Kremlin-funded TV news channel RT.

RT, which was formerly known as Russia Today, has been at the center of controversy recently with two reporters at the channel “going rogue” to openly criticize Russia’s interventions in the southern Ukrainian province of Crimea in the past few days. Criticism of the Kremlin typically gets little to no attention on RT, while content devoted to negative aspects of life in Western countries makes up a substantial part of its broadcasts.

Kiselyov’s ascendancy appears to point to efforts by the Russian authorities to appeal more to ultra-conservative values, a trend best signaled by last year’s passage of a law banning the promotion of homosexual “propaganda” to minors.

In Kiselyov’s most notorious on-screen harangue, dating back to 2012, he suggested it would be advisable to “burn or bury the hearts of gays” who die in car crashes.

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