RT equated to ISIS for ‘daring to advocate a point of view’

Following comments from the US overseas broadcasting chief listing RT as a challenge alongside the Islamic State and Boko Haram, critics said the outlet was singled out for “daring to advocate a point of view,” as well as for “competing for viewership.”

On Wednesday, the new chief of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Andrew Lack, told the New York Times that RT posed a significant challenge – putting the broadcaster in a list alongside the Islamic State and Boko Haram terror groups.

READ MORE: Head of US state media put RT on same challenge list as ISIS, Boko Haram

The comments have since been denounced on social networks and across the media spectrum. Speaking to RT, legal analyst and media commentator Lionel said the channel was being outrageously singled out and equated to the Islamic State for “daring to advocate a point of view.”

“In the history of incoherent statements, this might be the granddaddy of them all. In reading this, he alleges that Russia Today pushes… ‘a point of view,’” he told RT’s Ameera David.

Georgetown University journalism professor Chris Chambers added that Lack’s words were “supremely silly and careless,” especially considering his media background. Lack previously worked for NBC, Bloomberg, and Sony Music.

“This is a guy who has some media savvy, supposedly, even though he’s moved around a lot – maybe this is one reason he’s moved around,” Chambers told RT. “But this was a very careless and silly thing to say considering the prevalence of corporate media here in the United States, and the purpose of BBG’s constitutes like Voice of America, who are supposed to put out all kinds of views.”

While Lack’s comments were roundly criticized, Steven Ellis of the International Press Institute said he was right in one way. “Mr. Lack could have phrased his comments more carefully: RT does indeed pose a challenge to US international broadcasting in terms of competing for viewership,” he said.

Asked about the issue on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki distanced the US government from Lack’s comments, saying it doesn’t agree with the statement.

READ MORE: State Dept disagrees with head of US state media over equation of RT with ISIS

“Would the US government put those three in the same category? No, we wouldn’t,” Psaki said. However, she said there are “concerns” the US does agree with, stating that Russia’s independent media is under pressure and that BBG’s ability to broadcast in the country has become more difficult.

RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan condemned the comparison and demanded clarification.

“We are extremely outraged that the new head of the BBG mentions RT in the same breath as the world’s number one terrorist army,” she said. “We see this as an international scandal and demand an explanation.”

To Lionel, the comparison was also troubling because Lack began his tenure on questionable footing by targeting another media outlet instead of expressing a commitment to spreading the truth.

“Instead, you pull one organization out and align, and impugn, and suggest – through some strange kind of juxtaposition – that RT is somehow – what? An agent of ISIS and Boko Haram? On day one? I can’t wait for day two!”

Still, Lionel pointed to the reaction on social media, which spread under several hashtags including #NEWSISNOTTERROR, and from other outlets as a sign of optimism.

“We have resoundingly said that this is absurd,”
he said. “So the best thing to do is always to disseminate truth.”