The freedoms of speech and press do indeed exist in Russia as proven by the fact that redfish can seemingly contradict the Kremlin’s policy of unwaveringly supporting India on Kashmir just like RT can do the same with China when it comes to going far beyond all manner of ‘political correctness’ in some of their op-eds about it.
Redfish (stylized with a lower-case r), a Ruptly-financed Berlin-based media project, was misunderstood by some observers as reflecting its indirect Russian state patron’s official policies after sharing a tweet about its upcoming video on Kashmir. Titled “Kashmir: Palestine In The Making”, the promotional clip made it seem like redfish’s upcoming information product is very critical of the Indian government. That prompted plenty of fury from Indian users who wrongly assumed that its latest project is supported by the Russian government, perhaps influenced to think so due to Twitter’s misleading labeling of that company’s handle as “Russia state-affiliated media”. Some urgent clarification is in order.
Although it’s often thought that public financing not only influences the recipient’s views but also limits their editorial independence, that’s arguably not the case with those projects that receive Russian state funding, whether indirectly like redfish or directly like RT. It’s not just a slogan to claim that they maintain their editorial independence but a documented fact. RT, for instance, has published many pieces that are sharply critical of China like the author has compiled over the past two years in his long-running Facebook thread chronicling some of the most prominent during that time. The following three examples in particular confirm this assessment of RT’s editorial independence.
Contributor Damian Wilson published an op-ed on 20 March 2020 provocatively titled “From villain to hero? After its badly botched response to the Covid-19 outbreak, China now seeks to be the world’s savior” where he strongly implied that China deliberately let the virus spread across the world for self-interested reasons. According to him, “A cynic might suggest that there is something intrinsically wrong with China arguably being entirely responsible for spreading a disease then selling its cure back to those nations who have not managed to avoid its killer path.” In other words, RT’s editorial staff evidently had no problem with him making such claims despite Russia’s strategic partnership with China.
Chris Sweeney, another RT contributor, went even further in an article published on 26 May 2021. Titled “Cancel culture’s benefit is that it exposes spineless celebs like Cena & Ruffalo who don’t have the courage of their convictions”, he wrote that “Cena stated a fact – Taiwan is indeed a country, it has a democratically elected government, defined borders and their citizens carry a green passport with Taiwan printed on the cover” despite his platform’s Russian state patron not recognizing Taiwan as a “country”. Less than a month later on 18 June 2021, Walter Block published “Monsters like Hitler & Ted Bundy are terrible, but it was people like them who protected the human race millions of years ago”.
He did the hitherto unthinkable for an RT contributor, which was to compare Mao Zedong to Adolf Hitler. Block asked, “What did Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot all have in common, besides the obvious fact that they were all mass murderers?” It’s worthwhile to point out that he also compared the Soviet Union’s World War II leader to Hitler in that same sentence. Had he done so two weeks later, then RT might not have published the piece because President Putin signed into law pertinent amendments banning any comparison between the USSR and Nazi Germany on 1 July 2021. Nevertheless, the primary point is that there’s no question that RT is truly editorially independent.
That being the case as proven by what Russia’s publicly financed international media flagship published about their state patron’s comprehensive strategic partner — accusing it of deliberately letting COVID spread across the world for self-interested reasons, recognizing Taiwan as a “country”, and comparing Mao to Hitler — nobody should be under any illusions in thinking that indirectly funded redfish reflects the Kremlin’s official policies either. Their outlooks might align with respect to criticizing the US and NATO, for example, but they diverge when it comes to that project’s criticism of the Indian government as implied in the promo clip of its upcoming Kashmir video.
Interpreting all the information products released by Russian-funded media as indicative of their state patron’s official policies is therefore inaccurate. The examined examples from RT decisively disprove that point of view. These outlets are fiercely editorially independent to the point of even contradicting their financier’s official policies towards its top two strategic partners anywhere in the world: China and India. Regardless of however one feels about this and what they might speculate about their motives (such as them intending to counteract the US-led West’s accusations that they’re “Kremlin-controlled Russian propaganda”), this observation is undeniable.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind so that their audience isn’t confused by some of their information products like redfish’s upcoming Kashmir video or RT’s many pieces that go far beyond the line of “political correctness” with respect to China’s sensitivities. Average folks can be forgiven for misinterpreting this since Twitter misleadingly labels redfish as “Russia state-affiliated media” to falsely imply that it’s “Kremlin-controlled” even though that isn’t the case for either it or even RT as was argued in this analysis. Those experts who know better, however, cannot be forgiven for misportraying the true nature of their editorial independence.
This is unrelated to redfish’s upcoming Kashmir video or RT’s objectively anti-Chinese articles but still deserves to be briefly touched upon in the context of the present piece. US-led Western Mainstream Media outlets will sometimes present certain information products from Russian-funded media as reflecting the government’s policies simply to manipulate their audience for whatever political end they’re aiming for at that time. Nobody should ever fall for this crude information warfare provocation after learning that such outlets definitely don’t always share the same outlook on sensitive subjects as their state patron. Redfish, RT, and Sputnik, among others, are truly editorially independent.
Returning back to topic of this analysis, redfish’s upcoming video about Kashmir might be controversial among some members of their audience, but those who dislike its potential portrayal of the situation should remember that it doesn’t reflect Russia’s official policy despite being indirectly financed by it. The freedoms of speech and press do indeed exist in Russia as proven by the fact that redfish can seemingly contradict the Kremlin’s policy of unwaveringly supporting India on Kashmir just like RT can do the same with China when it comes to going far beyond all manner of “political correctness” in some of their op-eds about it. The bottom line is that Russian media isn’t a reliable indicator of Russian policy.