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Comparing Russian and American government ‘propaganda’

Meduza
16:40, 14 september 2017

After publishing this infographic, Meduza received a statement from RFE/RL, republished below. Meduza received a response from RT, as well, which we are also sharing below:

“RFE/RL objects to the false equivalency suggested by the headline, ‘Comparing Russian and American government ‘propaganda,’’ that introduces the infographic published on September 14. The U.S.-funded international media networks are editorially independent of any government, and are transparent about the amount and sources of their funding.”

“RT is an editorially independent, autonomous nonprofit organization that delivers award-winning reporting and an alternative perspective on current affairs. We think RFE/RL’s objection to facts speaks for itself, though we do appreciate the comic relief.”

Calls to crack down on Russian “disinformation campaigns” have reached a fever pitch in the United States. Just this week, the Justice Department ordered the company that runs the U.S. version of RT, the Russian state-owned outlet originally known as Russia Today, to register as a foreign agent, signaling that all of its content would be labeled as propaganda from Moscow. Days earlier, Yahoo! News reported that the FBI has questioned two former staffers at the Russian state Sputnik news agency, as part of an ongoing investigation into a potentially undeclared propaganda campaign by the Russian government that violates America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act. Margarita Simonyan, the chief editor of RT and Rossiya Segodnya, has already warned that Moscow will likely take retaliatory measures against American journalists working in Russia, raising fears that registering reporters as foreign agents could become the next chapter in U.S.-Russian “parity” diplomacy.

Though Simonyan didn’t say which “American journalists” Russian police would target, it’s a good bet that Moscow would start with reporters from RFE/RL and Voice of America. Both these independent outlets are funded and supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. government agency whose stated mission is “to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”

RFE/RL is designed to produce independent reporting and promote democratic values — “uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate” — in places where this kind of journalism is believed to be absent. The Voice of America was created to represent America and present the policies of the U.S. “clearly and effectively,” along with “responsible discussions and opinion” on these policies. In other words, RFE/RL is supposed to create independent journalism about the outside world, while VOA is meant to report about America itself.

In this infographic, Meduza compares the U.S. government’s international news media to RT and Sputnik, to get a better sense of just how big these operations are, relative to each other.