Irish media reported earlier this month that an Irish journalist was included in a new package of UK sanctions in connection with his role at the Russian propaganda outlet RT (formerly. Russia Today). According to a report by The Independent:
May 04 2022 Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald has been named in a new package of UK sanctions over his role with Russian media. As Head of the Russian and Former Soviet Union Desk for Russia Today (RT), he is accused of being “a member of, or associated with, a person involved in destabilising Ukraine or obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia” by the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation Mr MacDonald has been made a designated person by the UK government. ‘The war on Ukraine is a wake-up call to us that enough is enough’ – Taoiseach Micheál Martin Others on that list include Herman Gref, the chief executive of Russia’s largest lender Sberbank and former Economy Minister, billionaire oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler and Polina Kovaleva, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s socialite step-daughter. UK citizens must now freeze any accounts, funds, or other economic resources, and refrain from dealing with Mr MacDonald. Failure to comply or attempting to circumvent the sanctions is deemed a criminal offence. Mr MacDonald said in a statement to the Irish Independent last night: “I just think it’s really sad. And it reflects badly on the British government, which claims to have respect for press freedom.” He added: “What makes this ruling even more ridiculous is that I ran the (online) desk to the highest professional standards. We did not engage in any disinformation. “Our output was balanced and rigorously fact checked. Under no metric could it have been considered ‘propaganda’. In fact, this seemed to upset some people as they wanted RT to fit a particular narrative.
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In 2017, the NYT characterized RT 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.
The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) has reported extensively on RT and its operations.