This is not a story about fake news. Rather, it’s one about how journalism can be used as propaganda to promote a regime’s interests at home and internationally, silently and powerfully with the help of social media.
In a The Daily Beast story titled “‘Grassroots’ Media Startup Is Supported by the Kremlin,” a Berlin-based media collective called Redfish is investigated in full, revealing its ties to Russian state television and the Kremlin.
Redfish declared it would dedicate itself to “radical, in-depth grassroots features,” which included several that promote Russia’s agendas internationally.
The story outlines one instance in which Vice praised a documentary about a fire in a British public-housing development that killed more than 70 people. Vice believed it was the product of an independent, amateur outfit. However, it was soon discovered the documentary had been playing on RT, Moscow’s state-supported television network.
The Daily Beast asks what exactly is Redfish and reports the company refused any comment for their story. The track record of many of the company’s reporters paints a suspicious picture.
One prominent Redfish journalist, Elizabeth Cocker, worked for the propaganda arm of Moscow for seven years before joining the new outfit. Another reporter, Jelena Milincic, a correspondent for Redfish, has worked for Russian Television. As recently as October of last year, Milincic filed a Redfish story about the economic crisis in Venezuela that reached 120,000 views on Facebook.
What’s concerning about Redfish's work isn’t that it’s promoting false claims in the media. Rather, it is pushing one power’s agenda to sway followers of another’s, promoting itself as an independent entity — without the transparency to prove it.
Various governments have sought to undermine foreign powers and promote their own values. Think of the CIA’s involvement with the Iowa Writers Workshop, or, as outlined in the Daily Beast story, that same organization’s involvement in Radio Free Europe during the Cold War.
What is Redfish’s intention? Is it to portray itself as an objective media outlet — while waging a coverage mission? The Daily Beast states, “Redfish, likewise, makes no mention on any of its platforms of the place where its work has been most widely distributed: RT.”