Sputnik (news agency)
|Type||News and Media|
|Slogan||Telling the Untold|
|November 10, 2014|
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. Headquartered in Moscow, Sputnik has regional editorial offices in Washington, Cairo, Beijing, London and Edinburgh. Sputnik focuses on global politics and economics and is geared towards a non-Russian audience. According to The New York Times, Sputnik engages in bias and disinformation, and has widely been described as a Russian propaganda outlet.
Sputnik currently operates news websites, featuring reporting and commentary, in over 30 languages including English, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, and several others. The websites also house over 800 hours of radio broadcasting material each day and its newswire service runs around the clock.
RIA Novosti was Russia's international news agency until 2013, and it continues to be the name of a state-operated domestic Russian-language news agency. On December 9, 2013, RIA Novosti was liquidated and a new Russian international news agency Rossiya Segodnya was created. Dmitry Kiselev, an anchorman of the Russia-1 channel was appointed to be the first president of the new agency.
Sputnik was launched on 10 November 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya, an agency owned and operated by the Russian government, which was created by an Executive Order of the President of Russia on December 9, 2013. Sputnik replaces the RIA Novosti news agency and Voice of Russia (which was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until November 9, 2014) on an international stage. Within Russia itself, however, Rossiya Segodnya continues to operate its Russian language news service under the name RIA Novosti. According to its chief Dmitry Kiselyov, Sputnik was intended to counter the "aggressive propaganda that is now being fed to the world".
In 2015, Sputnik announced their intention to locate the agency's new UK Radio studio in Scotland's capital Edinburgh. The agency subsequently established its radio studio and bureau in the city and launched its current affairs and news programme, World in Focus, at a press conference on August 10, 2016.
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 move 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. The website was subsequently unblocked later that same year.
Radio Sputnik is the audio service of the Sputnik platform and aims to "operate in 30 languages in 2015, 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." It is also available on various satellite transponders, including a 24 hour English service audible in North America via the Galaxy-19 satellite. Notable presenters on Radio Sputnik include Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, who present the weekly economics based talk show Double Down; Eugene Puryear, who hosts the talk show By Any Means Necessary; and liberal talk radio host Thom Hartmann, whose Thom Hartmann Program is syndicated daily on Sputnik.
Regarding future plans for the U.S. broadcast market, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik U.S. stated in a June 2017 interview that there are no near-term plans for expansion into new markets beyond Washington, DC. This came on the heels of a late June 2017 announcement 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. Since November 2017, Radio Sputnik is also carried on AM in Washington 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.
Sputnik cannot own 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 July 1, 2017, Radio Sputnik (initially as its predecessor) had broadcast in the Washington DC 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.
A report in The New York Times addressed Sputnik and RT as "powerful information weapons". 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". Such views were also voiced by the Washington DC-based think tank Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), which argues that Sputnik spreads biased information. In the opinion of CEPA, Sputnik invites only a select group of commenting politicians, especially those known for their pro-Russian views. According to 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". Historical comparisons have been made to Pravda, once the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in particular Sputnik's apologia for Joseph Stalin and denial of the 1932–1933 famine in Ukraine known as the Holodomor.
German journalist and author Michael Thumann has described Sputnik as being part of what he calls Russia's "digital information war against the West". Alexander Podrabinek, a Russian journalist who works for Radio France Internationale (part of French Government's France Médias Monde) and the Radio Liberty (supervised by Broadcasting Board of Governors, an Independent agency of the U.S. Federal government) has accused Sputnik of disseminating Russian state propaganda abroad. In a vote urging for the European Union 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 in this report. According to a study by Masaryk University, Sputnik is one of the major sources of Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic.
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. 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. However, this has been 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." Jon Passanto of BuzzFeed News notes 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.
A January 2017 report by The Swedish Institute of International Affairs found that Swedish language version of Sputnik News was one of the main tools by which the Russian government spread false information in Sweden. According to the report, Sputnik News focused on highly negative stories about NATO and the EU, in particular.
In April 2017, Emmanuel Macron's campaign team banned both RT and Sputnik from campaign events. A Macron spokesperson said the two outlets showed a "systematic desire to issue fake news and false information".
On May 26, 2017, journalist Andrew Feinberg, who had been Sputnik's White House Correspondent, announced on Twitter that he would no longer be reporting for the agency, citing pressure from Sputnik's Russian editors 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 documents to WikiLeaks despite the lack of any evidence to support such a conclusion. In an interview with CNN's Brian Stelter, Feinberg also noted that Sputnik management had insisted on approving or dictating questions he would ask at White House press briefings, and wanted him to ask questions that implied that the April 2017 Sarin gas attack in Syria was a hoax, and that Sputnik tried to prevent reporters from having bylines to avoid accountability for falsehoods in stories.
In October 2017, Twitter banned both RT and Sputnik from advertising on their social networking service amid accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, sparking an angry response from the Russian foreign ministry. 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.
Perpetuation of falsehoods and conspiracy theories
Forbes reported that Sputnik International reported fake news and fabricated statements by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during the 2016 US presidential election. Sputnik falsely reported on December 7, 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." Forbes analyzed Earnest's White House press briefing from that week, and found the word "sanctions" was never used by the Press Secretary. Russia was discussed in eight instances during the press conference, but never about sanctions. The press conference focused solely on Russian air raids in Syria towards rebels fighting President of Syria Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.
Sputnik News published articles that promoted the conspiracy theories about the murder of Seth Rich. According to The Washington Post, "many Sputnik hosts profess skepticism that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election," in contradiction to the assessment of the US intelligence community.
Lee Stranahan, known for conspiratorial articles about the yogurt producer Chobani, was hired by Sputnik News after his departure from Breitbart News. 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. Stranahan also said that Breitbart had prevented him from covering the Trump White House. According to The Washington Post, Stranahan is "Sputnik’s most visible Trump supporter".
In 2018, the agency shut down its website in 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.
As a news agency, Sputnik maintains six news wires:
- Sputnik News Service in English, covering international events
- Sputnik News Service: Russia in English
- Sputnik News Service: Russia, Ukraine & the Baltics in English
- Sputnik Arabic News Service
- Sputnik Nóvosti in Spanish
- Sputnik Chinese News Service
Apart from wire services, Sputnik also operates online news in following languages:
- ArabicRIA VOR
- ChineseRIA VOR
- EnglishRIA VOR
- FrenchRIA VOR
- GermanRIA VOR
- GreekRIA VOR
- JapaneseRIA VOR
- PersianRIA VOR
- Portuguese for BrazilVOR
- Romanian for Moldovaru
- (edition for Romania, hosted by the Moldavian edition)
- SpanishRIA VOR
Sputnik previously operated the following editions, which were later shut down:
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- Twitter bans RT and Sputnik ads amid election interference fears, BBC News, 26 October 2017, retrieved 4 November 2017
- Google to 'derank' Russia Today and Sputnik, BBC News, 21 November 2017, retrieved 22 November 2017
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- "Chobani coverage is a reminder of one company's experience with Breitbart". mcclatchydc. Retrieved 2017-09-27.
- Russian Sputnik shuts down Kurdish website at Turkey’s request
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- sputniknews.com, the official website of "Sputnik" news agency