Russia Escalates Propaganda War in the Americas

Russia Escalates Propaganda War in the Americas

Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger | Huffington Post

As Vladimir Putin continues his quest to build what he calls a “Novo-Russia” from the ashes of the Soviet Union, he’s been able to win over, or at least confuse, countless Americans and people around the globe with a well-oiled propaganda machine.

And I’m not just talking about his Op/Ed in the New York Times last year questioning Barack Obama’s then-imminent airstrikes in Syria against a top Russian ally, Bashar Al-Assad.

No, Putin’s master plan centers on state-run television and radio, RT, formerly Russia Today, and Voice of Russia, VOR, respectively. Launched in 2005, RT now broadcasts in English, Arabic and Spanish, providing an entirely Kremlin-supported, anti-U.S., anti-E.U., anti-freedom worldview.

As Russia continues to occupy parts of Ukraine and Georgia, Putin has seen the need to expand his propaganda war throughout the Americas in order to gain sympathy and diplomatic support for conquests.

Just this month Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed an agreement with Putin to bring RT to Argentine households. In an attempt to get to know “the real Russia,” RT will broadcast 24/7 in Spanish out of Buenos Aires.

In signing the agreement, Fernandez de Kirchner emphasized the need to break media monopolies by “international actors” that impede on Argentine’s inalienable rights to information. By eliminating intermediaries, Fernandez de Kirchner believes that RT will fulfill a need for Argentina to have direct access to accurate information.

The only problem is that Fernandez de Kirchner has already followed in the footsteps of Russia’s model of authoritarian control over the media, imposing a “Putinization” of the press in her country.

RT was born after a business group with close ties to Putin survived a shake-up of the Russian media conglomerate “Media-Most,” who used to run several reports on cases of corruption in the former Soviet Union. By shutting down most of its independent press, the government became the major source of news and analysis in Russia and RT became its anchor for spinning state propaganda throughout the world.

In a recent report that examined freedom of the press, the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House ranked Russia among one of the least free countries in the world, below Venezuela and slightly above Somalia. Persecution of journalists is commonplace in Russia, according to the report. Today, a majority of the television networks are in the hands of the Russian government or some state-owned enterprise, vanquishing an independent press. Several other human rights organizations likeAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters without Borders, have also condemned Putin’s anti-freedom policies.

Nevertheless, President Fernandez de Kirchner is determined that RT is the model that will tell Argentina “the truth” about Russia.

The announcement came a day after the AFSCA, Argentina’s telecommunications regulatory agency, announced that it would be carrying out a forced divestment plan of the Grupo Clarin — the country’s largest private multimedia group. Clarin submitted a voluntary plan months ago to comply with Argentina’s new anti-trust clauses of the 2009 Broadcast Media Law, but was rejected in favor of the Argentine government’s decision to restructure Clarin, dividing the company’s assets through various bids that favor other companies controlled by the Fernandez de Kirchner regime.

Fernandez de Kirchner’s attack on Clarin began after they started reporting on the vast amount of corruption and criminality within the president’s administration. Known locally as the “K Money Route,” these reports by several investigative journalists brought to light theft of public funds, money laundering, and several other illicit activities by the president and her associates. Even prompting a legal case in Nevada who subpoenaed additional documentation of businesses and bank accounts in their state, on suspicion that they were used to hide laundered money or stolen public funds from Argentina.

With these investigations gaining momentum, Fernandez de Kirchner has begun detracting from these reports by falsely accusing the private media of being under the influence of “international actors.” Her position became clear during the conference call with Putin, claiming that the only reality is the “official reality,” and that only governments have the monopoly on “truth.”

The only truth is that neither Fernandez de Kirchner or Putin are interested in the voices of their people, especially if it gets in the way of their ability to perpetuate power and corruption through control of the media. Russia has perfected the model of authoritarian control over the media and has paved the way for countries like Argentina to emulate it. Thankfully, Argentina is not Russia quite yet, but this live tele-bridge between Moscow and Buenos Aires will undoubtedly give Cristina just another way to increase her control over the media and further cement her legacy as the Putin of Argentina.

And thus the Russian propaganda machine marches on.

Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger is a political analyst and director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in the Americas. Twitter: @Ezequielvazquez