No country’s state financed media is perfect and some are far from perfect. And yet for self-evident geo-strategic reasons, western state financed, as well as private media have for around three years, run a constant campaign of what can only be called abuse against state financed Russian media outlets, the most famous of which is RT (Russia Today). And yet, whilst some neutral observers might be inclined to refrain from criticising the mistakes made by official international Russian media because of the their one-sided treatment at the hands of western outlets, when it comes to Kashmir, Russian state financed media has gone too far.
Perhaps the term “gone too far” is actually too polite a phrase to use in order to describe what outlets like RT have done since the beginning of this month’s flaring up of tensions in Kashmir. In reality, Russian outlets have fallen off the cliff. There have been multiple instances of Russian media repeating verbatim, India claims which have later been exposed as false or at other times are based entirely on hearsay rather than on verified evidence. Likewise, the opinion segments on Russian outlets are seemingly 95% pro-India.
By contrast, throughout its coverage of the matter, Singapore’s Channel News Asia always invites both a Pakistani and an Indian analyst to offer unique perspectives on the ongoing events between the two nuclear neighbours. Furthermore, the analysts whose views are presented on Channel News Asia tend to represent the moderate spectrum of opinion on both sides. By contrast, RT has published opinion pieces on the matter that might as well have been written by a BJP press officer or even an RSS leader. To top it off, RT produced a video in which a female presenter attempted to trivialise both the suffering of Kashmiris and the possibility of a nuclear exchange. Finally, the female presenter appeared to praise the fact that RT has presented a biased view of recent events.
Of course, RT has the right to be 100% pro-BJP, but the problem is that RT presents itself as a modern, objective international media outlet whose editorial direction is one that seeks to offer viewers the Russian perspective on global events, just as Channel News Asia offers the Singaporean perspective, CGTN offers the Chinese perspective and the BBC offers the British perspective. And yet, unlike RT, the Russian government itself has taken a moderate and helpful position in the context of the current crisis. By offering itself as a mediator in respect of Kashmir, Pakistan has actually said that it is happy to see Moscow play a mediating role in the conflict, even though by contrast, New Delhi has thus far rejected all international offers of mediation.
Russia’s government has moved on since the Cold War, but it seems that Russian media has not. In this sense, Russian outlets are not only insulting millions of Pakistanis and millions throughout the world who have recognised India as the aggressor against the Kashmiri people, but they are undermining the very Russian government whose policies RT is supposed to present with accuracy and objectivity, according to its own mission statement. Furthermore, at a time when the Russian government is working to strengthen relations with multiple Islamic majority nations, it is nothing short of shameful that Russian media continues to de facto insult the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that has just condemned India’s aggression against Kashmiris in the most withering terms.
Fortunately, the Naya Pakistan government is mature enough to see past the propaganda and realise that like China, Russia seeks nothing but de-escalation of conflict in south Asia. It is therefore a supreme pity that Russian media is letting itself, its government and its international audience down by presenting views which are beginning to look like little more than BJP propaganda with some mild Russian characteristics. If the Russian state controls RT as much as it is alleged to do, the Foreign Ministry ought to make sure that RT’s converge begins to reflect the perspective of the Russian government rather than the Indian government.