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Russia Today (RT): Building an “Information Weapon”

In 2005 the Russian government spent more than US$ 275 million to launch Russia Today, now known as RT.

ITNT – In 2005 the Russian government spent more than US$ 275 million to launch Russia Today, now known as RT.

A Russian Ministry of Justice document states the allocation of two amounts, 17,668,310,000 rubles (US$ 275,000,000) and 42,326,000 rubles (US$ 660,000).

The funds were provided to:

  • Автономная некоммерческая организация “ТВ-новости” (Translated: Autonomous non-profit organization “TV-Novosti”)

The document further states:

  • (адрес (место нахождения) органа, по которому осуществляется связь с некоммерческой организацией) (Translated: (address (location) of the authority at which communication with the non-profit organization is carried out))
  • 111020, Москва, ул. Боровая, д. 3, корп. 1 (Translated: 111020, Moscow, st. Borovaya, 3, bldg. one) is provided as the organization’s address

Searching for the above given address results in RT’s Contact Us page top-listed in Google’s search results. The RT page lists the Autonomous non-profit organization (ANO) “TV-Novosti” as its parent company and has “Bldg.3, Borovaya St., Moscow, Russia 111020” published as its official address.

In 2013, in a conversation with Margarita Simonyan, RT’s Chief Editor, Russian president Putin talked about how and why Russia Today was created.

Vladimir Putin:When we designed this project [TV-Novosti/Russia Today] back in 2005 we intended introducing another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also try, let me stress, I mean – try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams. And it seems to me that you’re succeeding in this job. Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another.”

“The information weapon”

Excerpts from “Question That: RT’s Military Mission

RT’s editor-in-chief is Margarita Simonyan, formerly a journalist in the Kremlin media pool. In 2012, Simonyan was interviewed by Russian daily Kommersant (archived here), and described the broadcaster’s mission and philosophy in overtly military terms:

Question: OK, and why does the country need it all? Why should I, as a taxpayer, support you?

Simonyan: Well, for about the same reason as why the country needs a Defense Ministry. Why do you, as a taxpayer, need that?

Question: Really? Are we fighting someone at the moment?

Simonyan: Right now, we’re not fighting anyone. But in 2008 we were fighting. The Defense Ministry was fighting with Georgia, but we were conducting the information war, and what’s more, against the whole Western world. It’s impossible to start making a weapon only when the war already started! That’s why the Defense Ministry isn’t fighting anyone at the moment, but it’s ready for defense. So are we.

This is not the only time Simonyan has referred to RT’s mission in military terms. In a separate interview with lenta.ru in 2013 (archived here), she again spoke of information in weaponized terms, and highlighted its use in “critical moments”.

Simonyan: The information weapon, of course, is used in critical moments, and war is always a critical moment. And it’s war. It’s a weapon like any other. Do you understand? And to say, why do we need it — it’s about the same as saying: ‘Why do we need the Ministry of Defense, if there is no war?’

She further characterized RT’s mission in non-conflict situations as preparing for “critical moments”, such as war, by winning an audience.

Simonyan: Of course, the Defense Ministry can’t start training soldiers, preparing weaponry and generally making itself from scratch when the war already started. If we don’t have an audience today, tomorrow and the day after, it’ll be the same as in 2008.

In the Lenta.ru interview, she expanded on her vision of how the “information weapon” should be used and appeared to confirm that the United States is the principal target.

Simonyan: In 2008, [our audience] wasn’t zero, but put mildly, it wasn’t brilliant. Now it would be immeasurably better, on account of the fact that we show Americans alternative news about themselves. We don’t show it to start a revolution in the USA, that’s laughable and crazy, but to conquer an audience. (…) In a critical moment we’ll already have grown our audience, which is used to come to us for the other side of the truth, and of course we’ll make use of that.

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