Russian propaganda machine to launch French TV channel

RT's headlines are fiercely anti-European, and pro-Russian, with a far-right aftertaste. The bottom of the landing page praises the Russian army. [RT]

Russia Today (RT) will start broadcasting from Paris in December, as the Kremlin steps up its information war. EURACTIV France reports.

According to French media, RT’s francophone channel will start broadcasting by the end of the year, with a budget of 25 million euros.

RT already broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic from Moscow, and in 2014 it opened new studios in London. It has an annual budget of €300 million.

This move shows the significance accorded to this form of soft power by the Kremlin, whose information department is based in the ministry of defence.

Russian official: Information war part of ‘battle for the consciousness of the masses’

The new propaganda and cyber-warfare division of Russia’s ministry of defence is staffed by 1,000 people and has a budget of €300 million. Special efforts are being made to target the French presidential election. Euractiv France reports.

RT’s French channel plans to hire up to 150 journalists and enter the competition with other French media, both on cable and satellite TV.

Yet using the term ‘journalist’ to describe RT’s employees raises many eyebrows. During a summit between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia’s Vladimir Putin that took place in Versailles in May, Macron said that the authors of articles published by RT and Sputnik could not be called “journalists”.

“Russia Today and Sputnik behaved like propaganda machines, lying and spreading defaming falsehoods,” affirmed a visibly upset French head of state.

Near the end of the presidential campaign, Macron’s party, La République En Marche!, denied access to RT and Sputnik after they spread false rumours about Macron’s homosexuality (Sputnik) and used the hashtag  “#Macronleaks”, attributed to the Russian hacking group APT 8.

Macron campaign 'targeted' by Russian 'fake news' and cyberattacks

French presidential favourite Emmanuel Macron is being targeted by Russian media and internet attacks from within Russia with the goal of helping the election campaigns of his pro-Moscow rivals, his party chief said on Monday (13 February).

RT and Sputnik took information from blogs and other websites and fashioned them into news items. By doing this, they encouraged circulation of fake news during the presidential campaign.

Fake news and the far-right

As this article by Sputnik shows, alleging that million of Europeans united in anti-migrant militias, their mode of operation is simple: stating a (false) fact in the headline, citing other media as the source (in this case Izvestia), and completing it with a real picture (a Reuters photograph depicting Hungarian youth clad in scout uniforms).

RT’s priorities haven’t changed in the slighted since the French election. Their coverage focuses on anti-migrant sentiment, European leaders and the purported failures of Europe. On 20 August, RT’s homepage featured two articles on poverty in Germany, four anti-migrant articles, and a live video of a policeman supposedly shooting a terrorist in Surgut, Russia.

The editorial policy of the new TV channel, which recently obtained its licence from the French broadcasting authority (CSA), is expected to follow that of its online counterpart, “francais.rt.com”, and that of Sputnik.fr: violently anti-European, pro-Russian, and with a nasty far-right aftertaste.

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