Inside the Kremlin's propaganda machine

Elizabeth Wal, a former reporter for the Russian international channel RT, delivered a speech at a recent defence conference in Vilnius. At the conference she gave a first-hand account of Russian propaganda practices.  Wal had the perfect opportunity to get to know how the international propaganda system within the Kremlin works from the inside during her time with Russian channel RT. According to Wal, the Russian tactic of distributing disinformation is just amazing.

The former reporter stated that all Kremlin propaganda is built on three pillars: denial, diverting attention and blame, and the distortion of information. Wal emphasized that denial is the basis of modern Russian propaganda. She said that ignoring the facts and intentionally leaving out important details are fundamental techniques.

When difficult subjects arise, the channel was quick to introduce other controversial issues to divert attention away from the main topic. Frequently crises in Iraq or Libya would be used to shift the focus off an uncomfortable topic. Distortion of information is another frequent tactic used by the channel. One of the biggest examples by the Kremlin was the claim that the Ukraine was responsible for the downing of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing.

“Everything is described from the most morbid point of view. The west was seen as an absolute evil,” noted Wal. According to the former RT reporter, it was obvious that the conflict in Ukraine has become a turning point for Russian disinformation tactics. It was primarily through Ukrainian events that the war rhetoric has become firmly established in Russian propaganda. Wal noted that Russian propaganda seeks to quell minds. Talking about its goals in the west, there is an obvious desire to discredit the USA, NATO and the whole world.

Wal believes that the effect of this channel in America is minimal. She explained that America has many other news outlets that overshadow RT. However, the effect of this channel can be very serious in places where there are no information alternatives. The question then is why do Western reporters, who have a clear understanding of professional standards, choose to work for media outlets that engage in these tactics?  In response to this question, Wal simply stated that RT intentions are not immediately evident in the West.

“About 95% of the information reported by the channel is the truth, but the remaining 5% is obviously the Kremlin’s voice. Further, there are ideological reporters among RT employees. Those who are convinced of the demonic nature of the USA or that America organized the terrorist acts on September 11, 2001,” noted the former RT reporter. In response to the Newsader question: Are there any instructions that show RT reporters how the material should be delivered, she answered that there are no such written instructions but there is an understanding of channel policy among all reporters.

“Step by step, you learn how to do the right stories. You start to understand what you can tell and what you can’t. The mechanism of self-censorship is activated,” noted Wal. According to Wal, total editorial control by the Kremlin became a reality during the conflict in Ukraine.

It is important to note that she announced her decision to leave the Russian propaganda channel live, after the Russian occupation of Crimea. It’s not a secret that at the same time, RT started to further whitewash Kremlin actions and decisions.