May 9 2022, 16:18 pm

How Russia Is Waging a Successful Propaganda War in Latin America

Ger­man media report­ed last month that Actu­al­i­dad RT, the Span­ish-lan­guage off­shoot of Rus­sia Today, has amassed more than  18 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Face­book and almost six mil­lion on YouTube. This out­strips the Eng­lish-lan­guage RT, banned in most West­ern coun­tries over dis­in­for­ma­tion. Accord­ing to a report by Deutsche Welle:

April 13, 2022 Facts, half-truths, rumors, and fake news, mixed in with slim­ming tips, sport and show­biz, and all pre­sent­ed by jour­nal­ists. Stan­dard dai­ly media fare in many Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. How­ev­er, for Russ­ian state media broad­cast­ers, like Rus­sia Today and Sput­nik, there is a pur­pose behind the mix­ture — tar­get­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion. Both chan­nels are clas­si­fied by media experts as pro­pa­gan­da tools of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment.  The Span­ish-lan­guage off­shoot of Rus­sia Today, Actu­al­i­dad RT, has been a run­away suc­cess since it was found­ed in 2009. With more than 18 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Face­book and almost six mil­lion on YouTube, this “off­shoot” far out­strips the Eng­lish-lan­guage ver­sion, which has around sev­en mil­lion Face­book fol­low­ers and around four-and-a-half mil­lion on YouTube.  “Rus­sia used its sta­tus as host of the 2018 foot­ball World Cup to estab­lish its media toe­hold in Latin Amer­i­ca,” says Mario Morales, a pro­fes­sor of social com­mu­ni­ca­tion at Colom­bi­a’s Pon­tif­i­cal Jave­ri­ana Uni­ver­si­ty. He explains that, through the sup­pos­ed­ly apo­lit­i­cal medi­um of sport, “Moscow pre­sent­ed RT as an alter­na­tive that pro­fessed not to con­vey pro­pa­gan­da or ide­o­log­i­cal or state inter­ests.” Since then, Morales says, RT has pen­e­trat­ed the media mar­ket in Latin Amer­i­ca, and has built up a “loy­al fol­low­ing” among its users.

Read the rest here.

The Deutsche Welle report notes that Actu­al­i­dad RT has 200 Span­ish-speak­ing employ­ees, with offices in Cara­cas (Venezuela), Havan­na (Cuba), and Buenos Aires (Argenti­na). Although RT was banned from social media fol­low­ing Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Ukraine, its con­tent is still wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed on oth­er web­sites, such as the Venezue­lan net­work Telesur.

In Feb­ru­ary, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed that Russ­ian state-owned Span­ish-lan­guage media out­lets are out­per­form­ing their US coun­ter­parts by 3 to 1, sug­gest­ing that Rus­sia is win­ning the infor­ma­tion war on Ukraine with Span­ish speak­ers. In Novem­ber, we report­ed that Actu­al­i­dad RT was the sec­ond most-watched Span­ish-lan­guage news chan­nel on YouTube. We have also report­ed that Russ­ian social media influ­ence oper­a­tions are suc­ceed­ing out­side West­ern infor­ma­tion spaces where antipa­thy for the West is deep and sym­pa­thy for Rus­sia real.

In 2017, the NYT char­ac­ter­ized RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) as follows:

Ana­lysts are sharply divid­ed about the influ­ence of RT. Point­ing to its minus­cule rat­ings num­bers, many cau­tion against over­stat­ing its impact. Yet focus­ing on rat­ings may miss the point, says Peter Pomer­ant­sev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of tele­vi­sion for pro­pa­gan­da. “Rat­ings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are cam­paigns for finan­cial, polit­i­cal and media influ­ence.” RT and Sput­nik pro­pel those cam­paigns by help­ing cre­ate the fod­der for thou­sands of fake news prop­a­ga­tors and pro­vid­ing anoth­er out­let for hacked mate­r­i­al that can serve Russ­ian inter­ests, said Ben Nim­mo, who stud­ies RT for the Atlantic Coun­cil. What­ev­er its impact, RT is unques­tion­ably a case study in the com­plex­i­ty of mod­ern pro­pa­gan­da. It is both a slick mod­ern tele­vi­sion net­work, dressed up with great visu­als and styl­ish pre­sen­ters, and a con­tent farm that helps feed the Euro­pean far right. View­ers find it dif­fi­cult to dis­cern exact­ly what is jour­nal­ism and what is pro­pa­gan­da, what may be “fake news” and what is real but pre­sent­ed with a strong slant.


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