As RT faces fresh allegations of peddling propaganda, The Moscow Times gained an insider view.
Russian President Vladimir Putin looked uncomfortable. During a joint press conference with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron in Versailles—a location chosen to emphasize the dawn of a new era of French-Russian relations—a reporter from Russia’s state-funded news organization RT pitched a hardball question: Why did Macron prevent Russian journalists from taking part in his press pool?
Macron was nonchalant in his response. “Russia Today and [sister publication] Sputnik did not behave as media organizations and journalists,” he said. Rather than act as journalists, the state-funded Russian outlets had acted as “agencies of influence and propaganda, lying propaganda—no more, no less,” during his presidential campaign.
RT has been quick to respond to the allegations. Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan claims the channel was trying to bring “balance” to the French media environment, which was heavily pro-Macron. And Robert Bridge, one of RT’s most recognizable writers, published a piece slamming Macron’s comments as a “severe blow” to journalism.
In fact, Macron’s appraisal of RT is far from unique. It reflects a growing consensus in Western official and academic circles over the nature of the organization and its supposed leading role in supporting “anti-establishment” political discourse.
But just how influential and functional is RT in reality? The Moscow Times took an inside look into the workings of this notoriously secretive organization. …