The Corner


A Truthful Thorn in the Kremlin’s Side

Employees of Current Time, a Russian-language media platform, at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague, February 7, 2017 (David W Cerny / Reuters)

In an April issue of National Review, we published a piece on Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, here. This organization is newly important, given the Kremlin’s recent exertions against a free and democratic West. Needless to say, the Kremlin has moved against RFE/RL. The organization’s Russian journalists work at considerable personal risk (as do other RFE/RL journalists).

Here is some news from today:

A Moscow court has fined [RFE/RL] after ruling that it had failed to comply with a Russian law regulating media outlets branded by the government as “foreign agents.” . . .

RFE/RL said it was considering its legal options. Ultimately, violations of the foreign-agent law could trigger criminal charges against RFE/RL and its staff in Russia and threaten its operations in the country.

For the full report — from RFE/RL itself — go here.

The organization’s president, Thomas Kent, said that the prosecution of RFE/RL represented a “sharp new escalation in a series of Russian actions aimed at hamstringing the work of the company and at casting public suspicion on its Russian staff.”

Incidentally, Kent has long experience of Russia, and was once the bureau chief of the Associated Press in Moscow.

On the subject of the law at issue, Kent said, “Of all the foreign media working in Russia, only media funded by the U.S. Congress have been designated as ‘media foreign agents’ under this law. We view the law as conceived exclusively to target us. U.S. laws guarantee our editorial independence. Suggestions that we are agents of any government are false. They have already affected our ability to gather news in Russia, and they create danger for our people there.”

My earlier-mentioned piece is about Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in general, but I would like to excerpt the portion dealing with Russia:

One of the radios’ most successful projects is Current Time, a 24/7 television network in Russian. It was launched in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the start of war in eastern Ukraine. It is an alternative to Kremlin-controlled media. There are some 300 million Russian-speakers in the world, and Current Time goes wherever they are. That includes the Baltics, Moldova, Georgia, Central Asia — even Israel (where 1.5 million people speak Russian).

Kenan Aliyev is the executive director for feature programming at Current Time. A native of Azerbaijan, he joined RFE/RL in 1994 as a stringer. He says that there is a hungry audience for Current Time’s programming. “They are bombarded by state propaganda, and they need something else.” The Kremlin throws up obstacles to Current Time, denying it cable access, for example. The Kremlin’s own network, RT, has a much easier time in the United States. But Current Time manages to get through, via digital platforms and satellite.

“We don’t do propaganda,” says Aliyev. “We believe that truth is the best propaganda.” Vitaly Mansky, a well-known Russian filmmaker, has given this testimony: Current Time is “the only television in the world that tells us, in Russian, the truth about the current state of affairs.”

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