Turns Out All Russian Journalists Know They're Lying About Ukraine War

Russian Channel One producer Marina Ovsyannikova talking after being released from custody for illegal telling of truth (screengrab via video from SOTA)

Quick update on the story we featured yesterday, about Marina Ovsyannikova, the hero producer for Russia's Channel One who risked her livelihood (and her life) to mount an on-air protest, holding a sign telling viewers not to believe the propaganda and that they are being lied to.

As we published that story, Ovsyannikova had just appeared in a Russian clown court — we mean Russia's judicial system is fake, not that it's run by actual clowns! — and was found guilty of a misdemeanor related to the video she posted when her protest went up.

In that video, Ovsyannikova said she regretted doing "Kremlin propaganda" for Channel One and lying to the Russian people. She laid the blame for the Ukraine war squarely at Vladimir Putin's feet and talked of how Ukraine and Russia were never supposed to be enemies. She said, “It is only in our power to stop this madness. Take to the streets. Do not be afraid. They can’t jail us all.”

She was fined 30,000 rubles (worth about $250 in American money) and she has been released, after being interrogated for 14 straight hours. She still could be charged with a felony for the on-air protest.

Here's what she said once she was free:

"It was my anti-war decision. I made this decision by myself because I don't like Russia starting this invasion. It was really terrible," she said in English as she left the courthouse.

And here's some video of that:

Still defiant. Good for her.

So that's one part of this update.

But in response to the story, Meduza, basically the only independent Russian news source left (because it's based in Latvia), did some original reporting on the state of the state-run media in Russia and its relationship to this war. Specifically Meduza found out that many in the Russian media are privately opposed to the war, and that 100 percent of them know they are lying to viewers:

From the very beginning of the war, “all the staff at Channel One have been on edge,” says a source with close ties to the television network. “Everyone, without exception, knows that they’re lying. Right there in the studio, they’ve got monitors showing reports from Reuters and AP, while they’re getting guidelines and scripted stories from higher up that are utterly divorced from reality,” the source told Meduza, saying that employees at all levels have started panicking and asking themselves why they’re broadcasting lies. Senior management says life will return to normal once Zelensky is out of the picture, but the Ukrainian president’s staying power has frayed the nerves of anyone with “brains and access to real information.”

“Ovsyannikova has brains, and she has information access, since she worked in one of the important bureaus, the ‘Cities Service,’ where they collect stories from around the world and work with different correspondents,” explained the source, adding that he expects her to face a show trial eventually. The authorities will make an example of her, he said.

Apparently the story is similar at some other Russian fake news outlets. This account is striking:

A source with ties to one of Russia’s other major state media outlets, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), told Meduza that several journalists there, too, are unhappy on the job. “They’re forced to talk about the ‘peacekeeping special operation’ while many also have close relatives of draft age whom they’re trying to get out of the country by any means necessary,” the source told Meduza, arguing that the duplicity required to report the government’s falsehoods inflicts “huge psychological trauma” on the journalists themselves.

Elena Afanasyeva, who left Channel One in 2021, talks about what the climate at Channel One is really like, saying that many oppose the war, "but they can’t leave or are afraid to leave because they’ve got kids or parents to look after, they’ve got mortgages, their savings are decimated, or they fear unemployment and being blacklisted."

Meduza also spoke to a journalist named Igor Riskin, who used to work with Ovsyannikova. He had experienced something similar when he worked for Channel One during Russia's war against Georgia:

Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 — particularly the way his colleagues at Channel One covered it — deeply disillusioned Riskin. “And I was responsible for it, too, even though I wasn’t participating directly,” he told Meduza. Unlike Marina Ovsyannikova, he didn’t stage any protests when he resigned in 2009. “I just left,” he says.

And as if on cue after Ovsyannikova's protest, there are now reports of just massive waves of resignations hitting Russian state media right now, with some fleeing the country. One such resignation came from Zhanna Agalakova, a foreign correspondent for Channel One:

Agalakova says she doesn’t know what the current mood is at Channel One. She told Meduza that she handed in her notice on March 3 and her last day on the job is this Friday. “My freedom comes on Friday,” she said. “I can’t wait.” Asked why she decided to resign, Agalakova told Meduza, “I think the answer is obvious.”

We've made mention in the past few days of Russian media figures who know they're lying about Russia's brutal war on Ukraine. Margarita Simonyan, who runs RT, is one of the most disgusting, just a garbage human being. Now we can safely assume they all know they're lying, and differentiate between those doing something about it — including resigning — and those who are not.

Russian journalist Denis Kataev, writing in the Guardian, says one of his sources told him a "red line has been crossed." He predicts there will be more actions from Russian media figures, and that what Ovsyannikova did will "go down in the history books."

We can only hope.

[Meduza / BBC]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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