Sputnik (news agency)

  (Redirected from Radio Sputnik)

Sputnik (Russian pronunciation: [ˈsputnʲɪk]; formerly The Voice of Russia and RIA Novosti) is a news agency, news website platform and radio broadcast service established by the Russian government-owned news agency Rossiya Segodnya.[2] Headquartered in Moscow, Sputnik says it has regional editorial offices in Washington, D.C., Cairo, Beijing, Paris, Berlin, London, India and Edinburgh. Sputnik describes itself as being focused on global politics and economics and aims for an international audience.[3]

Sputnik
TypeNews and Media
Country
Russia
AvailabilityWorldwide
Slogan"Telling the Untold"
Owner
Launch date
10 November 2014 (2014-11-10)
Official website
SputnikNews.com

According to The New York Times Sputnik engages in deliberate disinformation,[4] and is regularly described as a Russian propaganda outlet.[5][6][7] In early 2019, CNN Business reported that Facebook had taken down hundreds of pages on its social media platform which passed as independent news sites but were actually under the control of Sputnik employees. Sputnik called the move "clearly political in its nature and...practically censorship.[8]

Sputnik operates news websites, featuring reporting and commentary, in over 30 languages including English, Spanish, Polish and Serbian. The websites house over 800 hours of radio broadcasting material each day and its newswire service runs a 24/7 service.[9][10][11]

HistoryEdit

RIA Novosti was Russia's international news agency until 9 December 2013 when it became known as Rossiya Segodnya.[12][13][14] Dmitry Kiselev, an anchorman of the Russia-1 channel was appointed to be the first president of the reorganized agency.[15] He soon announced that Margarita Simonyan was to be editor-in-chief. Simonyan told The New York Times in 2017 that she choose Sputnik as the new name "because I thought that’s the only Russian word that has a positive connotation, and the whole world knows it."[16]

The new Sputnik was launched on 10 November 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya, which is itself owned and operated by the Russian government, and was created via an Executive Order of the President of Russia on 9 December 2013.[2] As well as the RIA Novosti news agency, Sputnik replaced the Voice of Russia (which was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 9 November 2014) on an international stage.[13] According to its chief Dmitry Kiselyov, Sputnik was intended to "provide alternative interpretations that are, undoubtedly, in demand around the world".[5] The station claims it "tells the untold".[4] However, President Vladimir Putin, while visiting the Moscow base of the RT television network in 2013, said the objective behind both the then forthcoming Sputnik agency and RT was to "break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon global information streams."[16]

In September 2015, Sputnik announced their intention to locate the agency's UK radio studio in Scotland's capital Edinburgh.[17] The agency established its radio studio and bureau in the city and at a press conference on 10 August 2016 launched its current affairs and news programme, World in Focus.[9]

In March 2016, access to Sputnik's online content was blocked by Turkish authorities, as well as denying the Turkish bureau chief Tural Kerimov access to the country. The development is thought to have been in response to comments by the Russian leadership that were critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regarding the Turkish administration's record on human rights and freedom of speech.[18] The website was subsequently unblocked later that same year.[19]

In October 2016, Sputnik misreported the contents of WikiLeaks e-mails in a story that attacked Hillary Clinton. Quotes from an article produced by Kurt Eichenwald were incorrectly attributed to Sidney Blumenthal (due to him quoting Eichenwald in an email) and taken out of context. Sputnik later took down the article.[20] The false story was recited by the then-Republican nominee for president Donald Trump at one of his rallies, leading Eichenwald to accuse Trump of rebranding Russian propaganda for his own advantage.[5] However, this was disputed by The Washington Post, stating that "It's not that Trump is a Putin marionette, it's that he seems to have pulled bad information off a questionable website and presented it on live television to an audience of thousands without skepticism. This is an indictment of his judgment, not of his loyalty."[21] Jon Passanto of BuzzFeed News commented that the language used by Trump is more similar to a viral tweet from Twitter user @republic2016, which went out 4 hours before the Sputnik article appeared.[21]

In 2018, the agency shut down its website in the Kurdish language without mentioning any particular reason for the decision. Former employees of Sputnik said that the news agency decided to shut it down at Turkey’s request.[22]

Radio servicesEdit

Radio Sputnik is the audio service of the Sputnik platform operating in 30 languages "for a total of over 800 hours a day, covering over 130 cities and 34 countries on "FM, DAB/DAB+ (Digital Radio Broadcasting), HD Radio, as well as mobile phones and the Internet."[23] It is available on satellite transponders, including a 24 hour English service audible in North America via the Galaxy-19 satellite. Among the station's presenters are Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert who host the weekly talk show Double Down which concentrates on economics.[24] Another talk show is By Any Means Necessary which is hosted by Eugene Puryear, while liberal talk radio host Thom Hartmann presents his own program which is syndicated on Sputnik each day.

Regarding plans for the U.S. broadcast market, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik U.S. said in a June 2017 interview that there were no immediate plans for expansion into markets beyond Washington, D.C.[25] This came on the heels of a late June 2017 announcement[26][25][27] that Radio Sputnik would sublease Reston, Virginia-licensed translator station W288BS (105.5 FM) from Reston Translator, LLC, which transmits from the WIAD tower in Bethesda, Maryland, and begin broadcasting Sputnik on that signal; the station's reach includes DC proper and the western suburbs in Northern Virginia.[28] From November 2017, Radio Sputnik began to be carried on AM in Washington, D.C., on WZHF 1390 AM. The American owners of the stations were required to register as a foreign agent by the United States Department of Justice.[29][30]

Sputnik is blocked from owning an American radio station outright due to Federal Communications Commission rules against foreign ownership of broadcast assets, as enacted in the Communications Act of 1934. Prior to 1 July 2017, Radio Sputnik (initially as its predecessor) had broadcast in the Washington, D.C., area on WTOP-HD2 (103.5-HD2) since June 2013, if not earlier. W288BS translates Urban One's WKYS (93.9)'s digital HD3 signal for analog broadcasting.[25]

Sputnik distributes its programming to American stations via brokered programming, through agent Arnold Ferolito and his holding company RM Broadcasting, LLC. Its availability in Kansas City, Missouri on stations KCXL[31] and KOJH from the beginning of January 2020 was contentious, especially in the latter case because the station has a jazz-centered community radio format and led to a clash on the radio spectrum.[32]

Journalism and coverageEdit

Forbes reported that Sputnik International reported fake news and fabricated statements by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during the 2016 US presidential election.[33] Sputnik falsely reported on 7 December 2016 that Earnest stated sanctions for Russia were on the table related to Syria, falsely quoting Earnest as saying: "There are a number of things that are to be considered, including some of the financial sanctions that the United States can administer in coordination with our allies. I would definitely not rule that out."[33] Forbes analyzed Earnest's White House press briefing from that week, and found the word "sanctions" was never used by the Press Secretary.[33] Russia was discussed in eight instances during the press conference, but never about sanctions.[33] The press conference focused solely on Russian air raids in Syria towards rebels fighting President of Syria Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.[33]

Lee Stranahan, known for conspiratorial articles about the yogurt producer Chobani, was hired by Sputnik News after his departure from Breitbart News.[34][35][36][37] Stranahan had claimed that Breitbart had been insufficiently supportive of his investigations and theories which without any evidence asserted that Chobani was at the center of a grand conspiracy to replace American workers with Syrian refugees, and conceal sexual assaults and outbreaks of tuberculosis.[35][38] Stranahan also said that Breitbart had prevented him from covering the Trump White House.[36] According to The Washington Post, Stranahan is "Sputnik’s most visible Trump supporter".[34] In early 2020, at the time of the Impeachment of President Donald Trump, Stanahan stated "the entire impeachment is a lie.”[32] The Washington Post stated that "many Sputnik hosts profess skepticism that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election," in contradiction to the assessment of the US intelligence community.[34]

Andrew Feinberg's accountEdit

On 26 May 2017, journalist Andrew Feinberg, who had been Sputnik's White House Correspondent since the Trump administration began in January,[39] announced on Twitter that he would no longer be reporting for the agency. He said those in charge were more interested in employing “propagandists” rather than “real journalists”.[40] In one tweet he explained the agency's policy in article's attribution: “The truth is they don't want their reporters to have their own reputations, b/c a lie is easier when it doesn't come with a byline.”[40] He told Erik Wemple of The Washington Post: "It’s the fact that if you don’t have bylines on stories and there’s no one accountable for words, then you can really print whatever you want.[39][41] Sputnik, in a statement to The Washington Post, accused Feinberg of making "false accusations" and expressed the "hope that the fruits of his rich imagination would not create more conspiracy theories around Sputnik."[42]

Feinberg, in discussing his period at Sputnik, mentioned pressure from Sputnik's mainly Russian editors[39] to write stories and ask questions at the White House that implied that murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed in retaliation for leaking DNC documents to WikiLeaks, instead of the Russians, although evidence is lacking to support such a conclusion.[41] Sputnik News has published multiple articles promoting conspiracy theories about the murder of Seth Rich.[43] In an interview with Brian Stelter for CNN, Feinberg also said that Sputnik management had insisted on approving or dictating questions he would ask at White House press briefings, and wanted him to ask questions to imply that the April 2017 Sarin gas attack in Syria was a hoax: "I was asked to put questions to the White House that framed the issue in such a way that made it seem that the attack didn't happen, that it was staged,"[44] In particular, he was asked to raise at the White House the assertions made by Ted Postol querying Syrian responsibility for the attack. On that occasion, he was not called.[41] Feinberg wrote in a Politico August 2017 article, he had concluded after the request that Sputnik's "mission wasn’t really to report the news as much as it was to push a narrative that would either sow doubts about situations that weren’t flattering to Russia or its allies, or hurt the reputation of the United States and its allies."[39]

ResponsesEdit

Foreign Policy magazine has described Sputnik as a slick and internet-savvy outlet of Kremlin propaganda, which "remixes President Vladimir Putin's brand of revanchist nationalism for an international audience... beating a predictable drum of anti-Western rhetoric."[5]

Such views were also voiced by Ben Nimmo for the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), arguing that Sputnik spreads biased information. According to Nimmo, Sputnik invitations concentrate on a select group of politicians for their east European services, especially those known for their pro-Russian (Tatjana Ždanoka in Latvia) or anti-EU opinions (Janusz Korwin-Mikke in Poland). These two figures have limited support in their own countries; Korwin-Mikke gained slightly more than 3% in Poland's presidential election in May 2015, while Ždanoka is barred from holding public office in her own country for her opposition to Latvia's independence from Russia.[6]

In the opinion of Kevin Rothrock, Russia editor for Global Voices, Sputnik "acts as a spoiler to try and disrupt or blur information unfriendly to Russia, such as Russian troops' alleged involvement in the war in Ukraine".[45] Historical comparisons have been made to Pravda, the former official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in particular Sputnik's alleged apologia for Joseph Stalin and denial of the 1932–1933 famine in Ukraine known as the Holodomor.[46]

German journalist and author Michael Thumann describes Sputnik as being part of what he calls Russia's "digital information war against the West".[47] Alexander Podrabinek, a Russian journalist who works for Radio France Internationale[48][49] (part of French Government's France Médias Monde) and the Radio Liberty[50] (supervised by Broadcasting Board of Governors, an Independent agency of the U.S. Federal government) has accused Sputnik of disseminating Russian state propaganda abroad.[51] In a vote urging for the European Union (EU) to "respond to information warfare by Russia", the European Parliament accused broadcasting channels Sputnik and RT of "information warfare", and placed Russian media organisations along terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State. The federal agency of Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russkiy Mir Foundation were also seen as tools for Russian propaganda.[52] According to a study by Masaryk University, Sputnik is one of the major sources of Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic.[53]

A January 2017 report by The Swedish Institute of International Affairs found that Swedish language version of Sputnik News website was one of the main tools used by the Russian government to spread false information in Sweden including publicizing documents posted on little-known Swedish and Russian websites which were found to be forgeries.[7][54] According to the report, Sputnik News focused on highly negative stories about NATO and the EU, consistent with Russia's foreign policy interest of minimising NATO’s role in the Baltic region and keeping Sweden out of NATO.[4][54]

In April 2018, journalist John Stanton, who had been Sputnik's Pentagon Correspondent for roughly two years, published a report highly critical of Sputnik News, Sputnik Radio, and RIA Novosti, declaring that both the organizations were part of a larger Russian Information Warfare Operation. His public findings were part of an insider research effort while at Sputnik on behalf of the US government.[55]

In May 2018, the Public Broadcasting System's NewsHour website published an article by Elizabeth Flock who reported that Sputnik News and Radio reports "seemed intended to polarize" and "to distract and confuse" after listening to them over a week. On a visit to the station, she discovered "a stranger picture than I anticipated, one in which I began to understand how persuasive disinformation could be."[56] According to Flock, Stanton told her "They mix real with unreal, use dubious sources". It was difficult for him to point to the real problem as it "was like pushing a wet noodle." In other words, establishing what can be labelled disinformation is extremely difficult, she concluded.[56]

In June 2019, it was found that Serbian language outlet of Sputnik has infiltrated a disinformation hub in Bosnia And Herzegovina. These findings were published by internationally recognized fact-checking platform Raskrinkavanje,[57] which wrote reports about Sputnik bias towards spreading disinformation,[58] in a 106 page document.[59]

Reactions from governments and social media organizationsEdit

In October 2017, Twitter banned both RT and Sputnik from advertising on their social networking service following the conclusions of the U.S. national intelligence report the previous January that both Sputnik and RT had been used as vehicles for Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election.[60] It prompted a stern response from the Russian foreign ministry. It said the ban was a “gross violation” by the United States of the guarantees of free speech.“Retaliatory measures, naturally, will follow,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.[61] In November, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt announced that Google will be "deranking" stories from RT and Sputnik in response to allegations about election meddling by President Putin's government, provoking an angry response from both publications.[62]

In April 2017, Emmanuel Macron's campaign team banned both RT and Sputnik from campaign events. A Macron spokesperson said the two broadcasting outlets showed a "systematic desire to issue fake news and false information".[63]

In January 2019, Facebook removed 289 pages and 75 accounts that the company said were used by Sputnik for misinformation on Facebook.[64] The removed pages posed as independent news sites in eastern Europe and elsewhere but were actually run by employees at Sputnik. It was another in a series of actions taken by Facebook against Russian disinformation.[8][65]

In July 2019, the UK Foreign Office banned both RT and Sputnik from attending the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London for "their active role in spreading disinformation". The Russian Embassy called the decision "direct politically motivated discrimination".[66]

Other operationsEdit

Wire servicesEdit

As a news agency, Sputnik maintains following news wires:[67]

English
  • Sputnik News Service
  • Sputnik News Service: Russia
  • Sputnik News Service: Russia, Ukraine & the Baltics
  • Sputnik Exclusives
  • Sputnik Defense and Space
Spanish
  • Sputnik Nóvosti
  • Sputnik Hispano (news from Spain, Latin America and other Spanish-speaking communities)
  • Sputnik Rusia y CEI (Russia and the CIS)
  • Sputnik Economía (economy)
Chinese
  • Sputnik Chinese News Service
  • Russian-Chinese relations
  • News about Russia
  • International news
Arabic
  • Sputnik Arabic News Service
  • Sputnik Middle East
  • Sputnik Russia in the World
  • Sputnik Telling The Untold (exclusive reports and interviews)

Persian

  • Sputnik Farsi News Service

Online newsEdit

List indicator(s)
  • RIA : RIA Novosti previously operated online editions in these languages.
  • VOR : inherited from Voice of Russia's online news service.
  • ru : Sputnik also operates Russian language editions for areas served by these editions.

Apart from wire services, Sputnik also operates online news in following languages:

Sputnik previously operated the following editions, which were later shut down:

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Links for Radio Sputnik's Washington, D.C. station (W288BS-FM 105.5 MHz)