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3 Jun, 2017 17:16

RT’s fantastic ‘fake news’ and where to find it

RT’s fantastic ‘fake news’ and where to find it

Earlier this week, President Macron’s “fake news” reproach itself became the “fake news” heard ‘round the world.

The Macron campaign spent months accusing RT of spreading “fake news” about their candidate, yet failed to provide a single example of such wrongdoing in all this time. Even Reuters pointed this out! The reason for this is simple: There is none. RT does not spread fake news – neither about Macron nor any candidate or subject.

But some on the RT Watch simply cannot live with that reality. And they’ve gone to pains to come up with any possible “evidence” of deliberate journalistic malfeasance, because a world where RT is right and an establishment politician railing against RT is wrong is not a world they want to live in.

So, what did their relentless, collective efforts dig up? That, indeed, between all of RT’s channels and a dozen years on the air, there have been a few stories that were not entirely unassailable! Mind you, we have addressed these stories many times before and, oh, by the way, none are about Emanuel Macron. But the RT crusaders would never let these facts get in the way of a good story.

To save the gang trouble in the future, to help every “journalist” trying to make a name for him- or herself on the investigative beat by rehashing the same handful of years-old RT stories, and simply in the name of journalistic integrity, we’ve put together a guide to RT’s “yes, we’re less than perfect” Greatest Hits. Let’s get to it.

RT’s reporting on the MH17 crash was full of lies

Not so, says… Ofcom, the UK regulator. Guess what: the watchdog assessed whether RT’s reporting on the MH17 crash was biased and did not find any problems that merited investigation, nor any breach of standards. The watchdog perused RT’s July 17-22, 2014 coverage of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine, and the subsequent discussion of the possible culprits who might have brought down the plane. After careful review of 30 hours of off-air recordings, Ofcom concluded that the complaints “did not raise issues warranting investigation.” RT was therefore cleared of all charges of insufficient impartiality and factuality in these reports.  Nevertheless, dozens of articles about the crash baselessly accused RT of disinformation about the tragedy, before and after the Ofcom ruling – among them such titles as Time magazine, Der Spiegel and The Times UK.

RT promoted the ‘Russian girl Lisa rape’ story in Germany

You’d be hard-pressed to find a German news media article about the ‘Russian girl Lisa rape’ story that discusses the case as an example of Russian disinformation and does not mention RT. There are quite literally hundreds! But here are the facts: this is a story that was discussed in the German media far more than it ever was on RT. RT/RT Deutsch coverage of the case began on January 23, more than ten days after the story broke, with a report on the Berlin protests – something covered by other German media (Spiegel, Faz, Welt, Tagesspiegel, and more). The subsequent RT reporting, a grand total of three pieces, likewise dealt with the political situation developing around the story, while making sure to always represent the position of the police on the story, consistently including the statement that the “police have ruled out rape.” Yet even over a year later, here’s The Economist  insisting that RT “whipped up false tales” about Lisa.

RT reported on a crucified boy in Ukraine

RT has never, ever mentioned this story in a single news report, nor in any online article. The only reference to it has appeared once – as a caption in a commentary show. And even then the show in question was promptly pulled because it did not meet RT’s own editorial standards.


RT made up a story about the BBC falsifying a Syria report

Not at all. One episode of an RT commentary show referred to an independent but unofficial investigation which suggested that a BBC report might have staged some elements of a chemical attack in Syria, and replaced a reference to “napalm” with the phrase “chemical weapons” in an interview with a Syrian doctor. BBC did acknowledge editing the audio track while stating that “it is common in broadcasting to edit spoken contributions to ensure maximum clarity.” In its ruling, Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, actually declined to consider the evidence that supported the statements made in RT’s program about the BBC report in question. In Ofcom’s view, RT had exaggerated the significance of the independent inquiry.  However, even after the RT press release, the Independent and the Guardianbroke” stories saying that Ofcom sanctioned RT, when it had done nothing of the sort.

RT interfered in the Italian referendum with a fake video

Due to a technical production error, pro-Renzi demonstrations in late 2016, which were being streamed online, were unfortunately mislabeled as protests – for one hour! The moment the mistake was caught by the editors, the feeds were pulled and the titles were changed. The corrections, though noticed by the likes of Bloomberg and the Italian newspaper La Stampa , didn’t stop these publications from using an hour-long glitch to weave tales of Russia’s Machiavellian scheming in its supposed grand battle with the West.

RT stole and manipulated an Aleppo video

The Daily Beast published an article  claiming that in covering a bombing in Syria, RT “got a hold of [media activist] al-Abdallah’s reel and edited out the references to ‘warplanes’ and ‘Assad,’ then pinned the devastation on al-Qaeda. RT’s Arabic-language website not only stole the media activist’s footage without his permission, it then cut his original commentary to suit its own purpose […].” In reality, RT legally acquired the rights to the footage from the Associated Press, which purchased the video from al-Abdallah and removed his commentary before passing it on to RT. RT received the footage without the commentary and used it on its platforms without editing it in any way. With commentary absent, the article headline and video caption were initially inaccurate but were promptly corrected. The Daily Beast never bothered to reach out to RT for comment for its libelous story, only adding a correction after RT contacted the publication.These facts and a forced update notwithstanding, the Daily Beast’s story is still grasping at straws to pin the supposed manipulation campaign on RT, and Russian portal Insider straight-up lies about RT stealing and editing the video.

RT made up a story about Turkish forces surrounding NATO base amid rumors of coup

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen is convinced that this story is “fake news” made up by RT, and that somehow RT also tried to implicate the US in the supposed coup attempt. Except that the report in question initially came from Turkey’s leading news source, Hurriyet,  and multiple eyewitnesses. It also included comments made by Turkey’s minister for EU Affairs who confirmed that there was a “security check” at the Incirlik Air Base. What it doesn’t include is even a hint that the US might have been behind the rumored coup attempt. 

Speaking to the Senate, Senator Shaheen said the article was fake, and even compared RT to Nazi propaganda while promoting her bill, a reaction to alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 US election.  Oh, and she also considers RT’s coverage of the MH17 crash “fake news” – yes, the same coverage cleared by Ofcom.

At RT, we take our job as journalists seriously. Yes, unfortunately, sometimes errors occur, and updates and corrections will be made – at RT and at literally every other news outlet on the planet. That is the reality of journalism in the age of 24-hour news.               

But this is RT, and RT is not allowed good-faith errors, only “fake news.” Good-faith errors are only for:


  • CNN, when it reports on aDeadly Attack on Jerusalem Mosque,” when the attack was on a synagogue
  • CNN, when it uses 2-year old footage in Budapest to illustrate protests in Belgrade
  • BBC, when claiming that First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond “didn’t answer” a BBC question while cutting off the response, and then backtracking with poor “phrasing”
  • BBC, when one of their most-watched programs lies about an RT journalist interviewing her own father,” and is forced to apologize
  • BBC, even when its top officials and reporters quit following accusations of biased reporting on Iraq
  • Euronews, when an obviously fake Twitter account is presented as that of Russia’s Foreign Minister to make it look like Russia is meddling in a regional vote in Italy
  • Euronews, when basic historical facts about Crimean Tatars are twisted to an offensive degree
  • Le Monde, when it writes about a “forced cohabitation” of Russian and Ukrainian missions to the United Nations
  • Washington Post, when it reports that Russians hacked the US electric grid, which never happened
  • Washington Post, when it accuses more than 200 independent news outlets of being the Kremlin’s “fake news” agents
  • The Guardian, when it has to correct 26 articles that accused another outlet of deleting voicemails from an abducted child
  • France 2, when it gives the US-led coalition credit for a successful Russian military operation against terrorists in Syria, while removing all Russian-language titles


And that’s just the low-hanging fruit. We could dedicate months, or even years, to nitpicking every real or imagined wrongdoing by every mainstream media outlet under the sun, as a self-inflicted Sisyphean Task. But we have actual jobs to do.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.