‘New form of segregation?’: Moscow reacts to US State Dept treatment of RT reporter
At a US State Department briefing on Wednesday, when asked by RT reporter Gayane Chichakyan for facts to prove allegations that Russia is targeting hospitals in Syria, spokesman John Kirby said that he wasn't "going to put Russia Today [RT] on the same level with the rest of [the journalists] who are representing independent media outlets."
Moscow has now responded to the incident, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova calling it "outrageous" and "revolting."
"Is this some new form of segregation? Dividing media on an ideological basis?" Zakharova said at a press briefing in Moscow on Thursday.
She also warned her colleagues in Washington that if they kept on treating RT and other Russian media outlets with disrespect, she would make sure US journalists working in Russia experience a similar attitude. The Foreign Ministry could arrange a “special place” for American journalists at briefings, Zakharova said, adding “I can deliver that.”
"I don't think that American journalists will be happy with such a scenario," Zakharova said.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman stressed that not all American diplomats found Kirby's remarks "normal," and some privately apologized and expressed their regret about the incident to RT representatives.
‘War against any alternative media’
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama appeared to weigh in on the issue as he spoke alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference during his visit to Berlin.
“In an age where there is so much active misinformation, and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some overzealousness on the part of a US official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere,” Obama said, seemingly referring to the rant the US State Department spokesperson unleashed at RT’s correspondent.
Brian Becker of the anti-war ANSWER Coalition believes that by openly stating that State Department will not treat RT on par with “so-called free press,” Kirby said out loud what has long been the common attitude to alternative media in Washington.
“In fact, there’s a war going on, a war against any alternative media, in this case, the Russian media, because it’s effective and because millions of Americans are depending on it because they are sick and tired of the corporate-owned media,” Becker said.
“There is war with RT, there’s a war with Sputnik, there’s a war with Ruptly, not because it ‘weaponized’ information, but because it really is an alternative media source,” he added.
While Kirby advocated unequal treatment of RT’s correspondent and other journalists by saying that RT is not an independent news source because it receives funding from the Russian state, Becker argues that the US media living off big corporate money can in no way be considered “independent.”
“If you look at CNN, or MSNBC, or the Washington Post, or the New York Times or any of the independently – that is, corporate-owned – media in the United States they are all in echo chamber of US propaganda and that’s completely outrageous,” Becker said. He added that State Department does not expect challenging questions from US media outlets and that is why it mistook RT’s inquiry for “interference and disruption technique.”
“The Russian journalists, unlike most of the American journalists, actually ask for evidence,” Becker said.