Russia launches new media outlet called Sputnik

Sputnik's logo. Source: Aleksey Filippov/RIA Novosti)

Sputnik's logo. Source: Aleksey Filippov/RIA Novosti)

The international mass media have downplayed Sputnik as an attempt by the Kremlin to upgrade and expand the propaganda machine that was put in high gear as the Ukrainian crisis broke out.

Last week, Rossiya Segodnya international news agency (not to be confused with Russia Today TV network) unveiled its new media project, Sputnik, for the international audience. Sputnik has been conceived as an international news network to produce content out of different cities of the world instead of Moscow. Rossiya Segodnya CEO Dmitry Kiselyov has announced that the goal of the project is to “bring an alternative view of world events to the international audience – a view that is not skewed by the Western mass media.” The international mass media have downplayed Sputnik as an attempt by the Kremlin to upgrade and expand the propaganda machine that was put in high gear as the Ukrainian crisis broke out.

The international multimedia project under the Sputnik umbrella will include a news agency, the Sputniknews.com website, a press centre, a network of radio stations broadcasting in 30 languages out of 34 countries. According to the project authors, the key distinguishing feature of the new international media project is that content will be produced onsite instead of out of Moscow. Sputnik news offices have been already set up in 17 countries in the post-Soviet space. Sputnik radio went on air in Georgia on November 11.

Sputnik will unite dozens of websites and use the capacities of the Voice of Russia radio station that had been broadcasting news about all things Russian to overseas countries since 1929 but was taken off air in December 2013 pursuant to the presidential decree ‘On Certain Measures to Improve Performance of the State-Owned Mass Media.’ The same decree disbanded RIA Novosti – a major international news agency that had existed since 1941, supplying international and Russian media outlets with up-to-the-minute information about Russia. It was replaced by Rossiya Segodnya international news agency.

Rossiya Segodnya news agency has been operating since December 2013. Its mission is to present not only and not so much news about Russia to the international audience, but rather to cover international events in a way that factors in the Russian perspective. The agency is directed by international news journalist Dmitry Kiselyov, with Margarita Simonyan as Editor-in-Chief. The Western mass media have branded Kiselyov and Simonyan as the principal propagandists of the Kremlin.

Explaining the mission of Rossiya Segodnya, Kiselyov notes: “The agency aims to restore a fair attitude toward Russia as an important country of the world with good intentions.” Discussing the new Sputnik media project, Simonyan said: “The new media outlet will offer analytical shows, expert interviews, and entertainment programs that will stand out for the choice of topics and the coverage angle and, most importantly, a different understanding of the world.”

RT as Moscow's anti-Western bullhorn

The principal media resource of Rossiya Segodnya international news agency is the 24/7 news channel Russia Today (RT) broadcasting out of Moscow to over 100 countries in English, Arabic, and Spanish and available to 700 million viewers. The TV channel has its own studios in Washington and London from where it is broadcasting. While the channel has been repeatedly nominated for international journalism awards, the world journalistic community has mixed feelings about it. RT has been repeatedly equated with scandal-hungry Western tabloids and accused of biased coverage of international events. On November 10, the British media regulator Ofcom accused RT of “biased coverage of events in Ukraine only from the position of the Russian authorities.” Margarita Simonyan rejected the accusations as an “attempt to influence the channel's editorial policy.”

Some Western analysts view the liquidation of the Voice of Russia radio and RIA Novosti news agency and creation of Rossiya Segodnya international news agency in their place as a step that confirms the attempts by the Kremlin to position Russia as the principal anti-American voice. This has prompted debate in Europe on whether or not Russian broadcasting in foreign languages should be revived after losing its relevance (in the opinion of the 1990s generation) with the end of the Cold War.

ТАSS – The first Russian news agency

TASS is the oldest government-run news agency that has existed in Russia since 1904. TASS formed a dedicated frontline editorial office during World War II. Many of the agency's correspondents covered events on the frontlines.

In 1992, it was renamed ITAR-TASS only to reclaim its old name TASS following a rebranding campaign in September 2014. The agency covers domestic Russian and international issues and relies on the widest network of correspondents at 70 regional centers and news offices in Russia and 63 other countries. TASS media content is available in 6 foreign languages: Russian, English, French, Germany, Spanish, and Arabic. The agency's photo library stores several million photos and negatives.

“Media propaganda is synonymous with bad journalism”

Rossiyskaya Gazeta’s international project Russia Beyond the Headlines, of which the Russia & India Report is the Indian edition, is a major Russian media resource targeting the international audience since 2007.  RBTH works to expand Russia's information presence in the international mass media and publishes printed add-ons for leading newspapers in 23 countries. The project stands out in that it keeps overseas readers informed not just about Russian issues, history, culture, traditions, and travel opportunities but also about international events that concern Russia. Its core principle is a focus on standards, codes of practice, and traditions of quality journalism in countries where RBTH operates. Over 70 percent of the articles are original news pieces. Others are selected from the leading Russian mass media, translated, and adapted by RBTH editors to fit the standards of partner newspapers.

“News pieces of the Russian print media are seldom reproduced in the foreign press in light of the differing journalism traditions in Russia and overseas. We have succeeded in persuading our international partners, whose initial fear was that we would provide biased coverage, that propaganda was nothing more than the equivalent of bad journalism,” RBTH Publisher Eugene Abov says. “We at RBTH tell the world about Russia using the language of quality journalism, which does not tolerate promotion of just one position while ignoring other opinions and viewpoints.”

The RBTH add-on comes out with 29 influential international newspapers in 23 countries, including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post in the USA, Figaro in France, Handelsblatt in Germany, La Repubblica in Italy, El País in Spain, and Global Times in China. In India, the Russia & India Business Report is published in The Economic Times.

 RBTH also has 20 websites in 16 languages. 

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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