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Russia’s Top Propagandist in Latin America Resigns from RT over Ukraine Invasion, Says She “Won’t Do War Propaganda.”

May 16th, 2022 14:19

US media is report­ing that Inna Afinogen­o­va, for­mer deputy direc­tor of Rus­sia Today’s Span­ish-lan­guage sub­sidiary and one of Russia’s top pro­pa­gan­dists in Latin Amer­i­ca, has resigned from her job over Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. In a video post­ed on YouTube, Afinogen­o­va said she “won’t do war pro­pa­gan­da.” Accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post: report:

May 8, 2022 Born in south­ern Rus­sia, Afinogen­o­va is a charis­mat­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tor in Span­ish, a lan­guage she speaks with remark­able flu­en­cy. She rose to become Rus­sia Today’s biggest star in Latin Amer­i­ca. […] Over the years, Afinogen­o­va has pro­duced quirky videos mock­ing the very idea of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da and claims of elec­tion inter­fer­ence in Latin Amer­i­ca, crit­i­ciz­ing Venezue­lan oppo­si­tion leader Juan Guaidó, and defend­ing Venezuela’s dic­ta­tor, Nicolás Maduro.  In the months lead­ing up to the inva­sion, Afinogen­o­va used her RT plat­form to dis­miss the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Russ­ian assault. “Jan­u­ary will come, then Feb­ru­ary and March; 2022 will end … and sure­ly you will con­tin­ue to read in the main­stream media that Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine is immi­nent,” Afinogen­o­va post­ed in Decem­ber. “Those of us who fol­low this con­flict know that those who warn time and again of a sup­posed immi­nent inva­sion don’t do it because they’re igno­rant, but because it’s all part of a plan.”  After Russia’s inva­sion, Afinogen­o­va, usu­al­ly an avid user of Twit­ter, fell silent. A week after the war began, she post­ed a defi­ant thread, crit­i­ciz­ing the “block­ade” against Russia’s state media. “They FINALLY found a rea­son to end even a hint of an incon­ve­nient nar­ra­tive,” she tweet­ed.  Then, this week, 70 days into the bru­tal war she once dis­missed, Afinogen­o­va post­ed a video in Span­ish on YouTube. “I am record­ing myself. There won’t be any of the graph­ics or spe­cial effects,” she says. “I owe you an expla­na­tion.” Afinogen­o­va goes on to announce her res­ig­na­tion from Rus­sia Today. “Basi­cal­ly, I dis­agree with this war,” she explains. “I will nev­er under­stand or jus­ti­fy any war that goes after civil­ians.” Afinogen­o­va then seems to hint at Rus­sia Today’s true nature: “I won’t talk about whether the plat­form I’ve worked for all these years does pro­pa­gan­da. Truth is, I don’t know. But I, per­son­al­ly, won’t do war propaganda.”

Read the rest here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed ear­li­er this week that Actu­al­i­dad RT, which has 200 Span­ish-speak­ing employ­ees and offices in Venezuela, Cuba, and Argenti­na, 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. Oth­er GIOR report­ing on Russia’s infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions in Latin Amer­i­ca has included:

  • In April, we 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 Feb­ru­ary, we 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.

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.