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No news is good news How Russia's pro-Kremlin media responded to the Panama Papers
“It's coming tomorrow and it's going to rock the world,” said Drew Sullivan, the editor and co-founder of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, teasing the most massive data leak in the history of investigative reporting. The “Panama Papers,” the first of which dropped on Sunday, April 3, are a set of 11.5 million confidential documents leaked from the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, detailing the dirty dealings of roughly 214,000 offshore companies. The leak contains information related to heads of state, their relatives and confidants, and even celebrities in more than 40 countries. Vladimir Putin features big in the initial reports. His close pal, Sergei Roldugin, apparently owned several ill-gotten offshore companies worth billions of dollars. Several Western media outlets focused their Panama Papers coverage on Putin. The Guardian even dedicated a front-page spread to Putin, concentrating its first reporting seemingly exclusively on "the secret $2-billion trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin.” But how is the news playing out inside Russia? Meduza looks at how the pro-Kremlin media has responded to the first of the Panama Papers.
Russia's biggest national television network hasn't reported a word about the Panama Papers. On Monday afternoon, the headline story was about skirmishes in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Once one of Russia's most fiercely independent TV stations, today NTV has one story about the Kremlin's response to the release of the Panama Papers, arguing that the data leak is part of an “information attack” to eclipse Moscow's success in Syria and destabilize Russia ahead of its parliamentary elections in September. NTV also ran a separate story about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's alleged offshore accounts, and a Verkhovna Rada deputy's initiative to begin impeachment proceedings against Poroshenko, as a result.
This national television network has one story about the Panama Papers titled “Western Journalists Launch the Latest Information Attack Attempt at Russia.” The story contains Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov's response to the allegations against Putin, as well as remarks by two pro-Kremlin political figures. The text begins, “In the articles, Vladimir Putin's name is mentioned constantly, but nowhere is there a single document directly tied to the president.”
Once Russia's most popular independent news website, Lenta.ru now carries three stories about Putin and the Panama Papers. The headlines are “Peskov Describes the Degree of Putinphobia in the West,” “The Quality of the Investigation into Putin's Ties Has Disappointed the Kremlin,” and “A Useless Leak.”
Like NTV, this newspaper has stories about the Kremlin's response to the Panama Papers and the brewing effort to impeach Poroshenko in Ukraine. “The Kremlin Explains the Publication [of Documents] About the Russian President as ‘Putinphobia,’” reads Izvestia's headline, which is featured as page-one news online.
One of the most pro-Kremlin websites and television networks in Russia, LifeNews has one story about the Panama Papers, titled “The Kremlin Is Disappointed in the ‘Investigation’ Into Corruption in Putin's Circle.” The report begins, “Dmitry Peskov [Putin's press secretary] explained that [the Kremlin] expected a more professional outcome in Western journalists' ‘work.’”
This often pro-Kremlin tabloid hasn't reported anything about the Panama Papers. Today's front-page news includes rumors that former lovers of the murdered politician Boris Nemtsov are now bickering in court about exhuming the man's body to conduct a paternity test.
RT (in Russian)
Featuring a strangely menacing photograph of Vladimir Putin, RT made the Panama Papers headline news, reporting “A Record Leak of Putinphobia: World Media Again Pipes Up About Russia's President Without Any Good Reason.” RT also found time to write two separate stories about the Panama Paper's revelations concerning Poroshenko's offshore wealth, reporting the impeachment news and a call by Transparency International that the Ukrainian president should publicly declare all his assets.
Sputnik International (in English)
Sputnik has two stories about Putin and the Panama Papers: one repeating the line about “new heights” of “Putinphobia,” and another carrying Peskov's claim that Putin's ex-wife “never owned offshore companies.” Meanwhile, Sputnik also has four separate stories about Poroshenko's offshore tax havens, which were revealed in the Panama Papers.
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