“We are victims of war collateral beyond us”: testify to today’s Russian journalists

After Wednesday, March 2, and after the European Commission President announced this to the effect on Sunday, February 27, Russian media Russia Today and Sputnik were expelled from European territory. The Russia Today channel stopped broadcasting this Wednesday at 1:00 pm, but the channel’s journalists and presenters agreed to testify anonymously to share his views on recent events.

How did the editorial staff react to the European Union’s decision to ban Russian media from its territory?

Definitely bad. We were very surprised because everything was done so quickly. As soon as the war began, we knew it would have a fairly rapid impact on us. So fast, we didn’t imagine it. And above all, I didn’t think it was the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who announced this. We know that France has a procedure. Since we have a contract under the CSA, we thought it was from the CSA and there was an investigation to prove that it did not necessarily respect the specific rules of the treaty.

What are you specifically blaming? What explanation was given to you to justify this decision?

The argument we have is the same as you might have seen in the media, given by the President of the European Commission and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They accuse us of being a promotional medium. This is their only argument in my opinion and I haven’t seen anything else.

Do you understand this “propaganda media” accusation? Have you ever asked yourself about this, or are you completely confused?

Like many colleagues, I asked myself a question before arriving. We wondered where we were going. We knew well that it was my Russian-funded media. No one has hidden it, it was marked on the door. However, I was immediately relieved of what was said during the interview, and then relieved of the experience in the channel. I met French journalists, all French, all press card owners and came from quite different directions. So a really classic universe, like what you can find in France. There was no intention or order to release the Kremlin communiqué. We were all free to talk about the subject we wanted to cover at any time. While it was on the air for a while, I could write and say what I liked, and no one had seen what I wrote.

So what you are explaining to me is the life of a normal editorial staff …

That’s exactly the life of a normal editorial staff. I understand that I can ask questions from the outside. I was wondering before I arrived, so I understand all the colleagues who are wondering. But I was immediately relieved of what I saw from the inside. And I can say I would have left if I had seen something less attractive to me.

Has there been any drastic change in the life of the editorial staff since Thursday? And how did you choose to deal with the Russian invasion?

We just tried to do our job. Be fair and give everyone a say. That was really my goal. When a dispute begins. We knew that it was of particular interest. So from the beginning, I told myself that we would continue to do what we always do. As always, interview people from different backgrounds. We are also trying to cover this conflict in the best possible way. Dombass had a special correspondent who gave us daily feedback. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Kyiv, for example. We were forbidden to send people to Kyiv by the local government. Still, there were volunteers.

So do you confirm to me that there was no Russian prism to deal with this news?

No, there was no special prism. The writing is entirely in French and does not endorse what Russia has done or criticized. That put us in a complicated situation. Immediately after seeing the conflict begin, our sole purpose was to do our best for those who are watching us. Trying to give them all the prisms of this conflict.

When did you have a hard time keeping your work done?

The antenna stopped at 1:00 pm this Wednesday. I was still on the air last night. But the difficulty was rather a threat to social networks for some of our journalists. It’s a complicated context. Some were assaulted on the street while trying to work. Some were placed under police custody. I haven’t had any technical issues for the last 4-5 days, but I’m under great pressure to crack. Then one by one we saw our social network closed. First on Facebook, then on Instagram, Youtube, Telegram.

So they treated you as Russian propaganda media from the beginning. Can you confirm to me that the instructions given to the Russian media not to pronounce the words war or aggression did not reach you?

Oh no, I’ve been saying those words on the air since Thursday. There is no red phone in the news room and you can order directly from the Kremlin.

How do you envision the future of today?

It’s difficult to answer this question. Yesterday there was a meeting to discuss the situation. The fact is that it is unprecedented. We have never seen this kind of precedent in the media. Therefore, legally short-term to medium-term forecasts are very complicated. I have no idea what will happen. For now, we know it has been stopped. Is this a permanent or temporary outage? I can’t answer you, and I don’t think anyone can answer so far. We don’t even know what will happen to us journalists. I don’t know if I will be dismissed financially. I don’t know what the company wants or can do. It’s a complete blur.

Was there any support from the media world or the National Union of Journalists?

SNJ has been especially present lately and has supported us. In my profession, support was rare. But I don’t blame them at all. I don’t blame anyone because some colleagues can understand from the outside that it’s difficult to support us publicly. I think we are victims of war collateral beyond us. With a total of 100 journalists and 180 employees, many can work in the polar regions at the same time.