- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
United Russia, the party of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, has completed a report into how U.S. media outlets tried to influence Russia’s Sept. 2016 regional elections.
The report alleges that three outlets — specifically, Radio Svoboda (the Russian service of Radio Free Europe), Voice of America, and CNN — tried to influence Russia’s domestic politics. The report said that positive coverage was only given to opposition parties, when there was any coverage at all; Leonid Levin, head of the Duma committee on Information Policy, Information Technology, and Communications, said only two percent of political coverage could be considered positive at all.
Levin found that the media coverage was part of “a large U.S. system to influence Russia’s internal politics.” Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, is calling for a closed door meeting on the matter with the head of the FSB, Russia’s state security service.
On the one hand, the outlets accused of meddling in Russian domestic politics make a certain sense — Radio Svoboda and Voice of America are both backed by the U.S. government (and, as anyone following Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s Facebook posts knows, CNN is, at present, considered the lowest of the low by Russian authorities).
On the other hand, it makes no sense at all. As journalist Alexey Kovalev noted on Twitter, “CNN doesn’t even broadcast in Russia, and VoA/RFERL reach is minuscule – like RT’s in the States.”
But, then, as the Moscow Times’ Kevin Rothrock noted, the report could easily be considered a response to U.S. efforts to investigate RT, the Kremlin-backed Russian propaganda outfit. In March, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced a bill “to investigate Russian propaganda outlet RT News as a foreign agent.” And the FBI has indicated that right-wing media outlets — which often parrot Russian media — are part of its investigation into Moscow’s manipulation of the 2016 U.S. election.
Now, turnabout is apparently fair play for Moscow.
“USA,” Rothrock tweeted, “you’ve yourself to blame.”
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