Today RT America anchor Liz Wahl has resigned on air, claiming she disagrees with the channel’s editorial stance. And here’s what I have to say about it.
These days it takes a lot of courage to work for RT. Never before have I seen RT and its journalists bullied like that. See for yourselves what they did to poor Abby. First she openly voiced her disagreement with Russia’s stance on air – and was virtually made into a hero of America. However, later Abby reminded everyone how much she disagrees with America’s stance as well, adding she takes pride in working at RT, where she is free to express her own views. Less than an hour passed before Abby had her name dragged through something I have difficulty finding a decent name for this late at night. The US mainstream media even went as far as claiming we had orchestrated the whole thing as a publicity move. They also labeled Abby a conspiracy theorist, bringing into light her past as an activist. Within less than 24 hours, they first sang praises to her and then excoriated her. All of this happened in front of her colleagues, including Liz Wahl. How do you think they felt watching all that?
Yesterday I spent quite some time explaining to the New York Times correspondent why I consider Russia’s position to be right. I’m Russian. I support my country and I will fight for the truth for as long as it takes. Neither Abby, nor Liz, nor some other employees – none of them are Russians. They are all foreign nationals. And now their country is likening my country to Nazi Germany. For many years they have worked for RT in good faith, proving every day that a voice that stands out from the mainstream media can be beautiful and strong, attracting a bigger and bigger audience by the day. These are the people who were the first to tell their country about the Occupy movement, who were detained at the protest rallies, handcuffed for hours and then tried in court for doing their job. These are the people who were outraged by the US hypocrisy in Syria, Libya – the rest of the list is for you to fill in – reminding the world who used chemical weapons most often and even resorted to nuclear ones. These are the people who did all the things that the Western mainstream media would have never done. But those were peaceful times. And now we’ve got a genuine war going on – no, thank God, it’s not in the Crimea. It’s a media war. Every single day, every single hour the guys who work for us are told, “You are liars, you are no journalists, you are the Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece, you’ve sold yourselves to the Russians, it’s time you quit your job, and everybody is laughing at you, so change your mind before it’s too late.” Here are some links to the most recent articles posted about RT over the last couple of days. This would amount to tons of paperwork that looks as if it were written to dictation. There is hardly any respectable media outlet that has refrained from lambasting and lynching RT journalists in its articles or reports. Our employees are hearing this from their colleagues, their fellow citizens, and their potential employers, as the future of their career is obviously important to every journalist. How many of them can withstand this pressure? Well, some will and some won’t. Some sincerely disagree, as they believe their own country more than mine. Others are simply thinking about their future. And it’s hard for me to judge them.
This is all typical of a media war. We’re not the first and we will not be the last to go through this. During the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera staff in Lebanon made headlines by resigning en masse. Their Egyptian colleagues followed suit. More than twenty former employees said they disagreed with the channel’s editorial line. That happened without any pressure from the world mass media, as throughout the Arab Spring Al Jazeera was completely in tune with the global mainstream. So everyone commended the channel’s actions instead of trying to attack it.
A couple of minutes after Liz made her statement, we found all the major media in the world - as our exhausted spokeswoman put it, “CNN, NYT, pretty much everyone” – glowing with schadenfreude, as they lined up for official feedback from RT. There were also those who had ignored the news of the Ashton-Paet talks, as if they didn’t happen. A rival media anchor’s resignation is certainly much more important and sensational and more closely connected to the Ukraine crisis than two European leaders saying some of their henchmen may have been killing people.
I can see very clearly why I continue to work for a channel that stands alone (!) face to face with thousands and tens of thousands of Western news outlets, showing everybody the other side of the story, under daily attacks from the media that it is hardly managing to fight back. It’s my country. There is no other choice for me. But the foreign journalists who work for RT across the globe do have a choice. Some of them might be asking themselves, “Why would I have to defend Russia at the expense of my career, my future, my reputation, why would I tolerate humiliation by my fellow journalists?” Few can say “Because I’m telling the truth, and there’s no one else to tell it.” Some will fail to find the answer and quietly resign. Others will make a show of their resignation on air in a self-promotional stunt, securing some fantastic career prospects they wouldn’t have even dreamt of before.
Standing out from the crowd is hard, sometimes to the point of unbearable. I wish the best of luck to those who can’t bear this. To those who continue doing their best for RT, who know they are right even if the whole world says otherwise, I have to say I’m proud of you. IMMENSELY PROUD.