Russian propaganda arm RT to train PH gov’t media

Pia Ranada
Russian propaganda arm RT to train PH gov’t media
Russian TV channel RT will impart a 'different way of reporting' news to journalists of Philippine government-run news outlets like PTV 4 and PNA, says a PCOO official

MANILA, Philippines – Yet another news agency funded by the Russian government may soon be training reporters from the Philippines’ state-run media agencies.

Russian TV network RT, short for “Russia Today,” has offered to teach a “different kind of reporting” to journalists working for government media outlets like PTV 4 and Philippine News Agency (PNA), said Presidential Communicatons Assistant Secretary JV Arcena in an interview aired on Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday, October 13.

“They’re very open and they welcome collaboration with us in the future, especially RT because they offered training programs for our journalists, especially in state media, so they can improve and share their best practices that are different compared to Western media,” he said in Filipino.

“They will teach a different way of reporting to our fellow Filipino journalists,” Arcena added.

Philippine state media have been invited to participate in RT’s “International Seminar Course” which will teach Filipino state media reporters how RT works, including its workflows in “content verification, production, and promotion,” he continued.

Philippine state media was also offered access to content produced by RT.

While RT had specifically offered training programs, other Russian news outlets had expressed willingness to work with Philippine state media.

“(PCOO Secretary Martin) Andanar and I thank our new friends, especially in Russia Today or RT International, TASS News Agency, RAA Novosty, Sputnik, and All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company,” said Arcena.

He made this announcement after Andanar and PCOO Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat met with executives from Russian news agencies, during President Rodrigo Duterte’s second visit to Russia.

Why does this matter? RT is funded by the Russian government and, together with news website Sputnik has, through its news coverage, spread propaganda favorable to Russia.

RT was identified by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January 2017 as the primary source of propaganda that the Russians used to further their interests in the 2016 US elections.

A US Senate Intelligence Committee report had concluded that RT uses YouTube as its “propaganda vehicle of choice.”

RT and Sputnik publish news reports or content aimed at sowing division in the west and pushing forward the Russian government’s foreign policy goals through disinformation or conspiracy theories, writes strategic communication expert Robert Elliot in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

A report published in King’s College of London’s The Policy Institute details how RT and Sputnik “perform a ‘damage control’ function for the Russian state” to counter news incidents unflattering to it.

The two news outlets also “deploy a range of tactics to project Russian strength and construct news agendas,” reads a description of the report by Gordon Ramsay and Sam Robertshaw.

The PCOO had already sent some personnel of state-run agencies to train with Sputnik in Russia.

Russia has been accused of using social media and disinformation networks to influence the 2016 US elections and the Brexit referendum.

Rappler has found that Russia’s disinformation systems have reached Philippine social media  through pro-Duterte columnists and online personalities.

Latest in a greater effort. The proposed training with RT is just the latest collaboration between the Russian government’s communication arm and PCOO.

In November 2017, the Philippines and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Mass Communications. This was followed by trainings by Sputnik in October and November 2018. – Rappler.com

READ: Weaponizing the internet series:

Part 1: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet
Part 2: How Facebook algorithms impact democracy
Part 3: Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media
Part 4: State-sponsored hate: The rise of the pro-Duterte bloggers
Part 5: Blogger-propagandists, the new crisis managers

 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.