According to leaked documents, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the BBC Media Action organization have collaborated with the British government to contain Russian influence through confidential programs. Moscow demands an explanation.
According to documents posted online by a collective claiming toAnonymous, a hacktivist movement very present on the web, and compiled on February 20 by the investigation site The Grayzone, the British Foreign Office would have had recourse to various actors, including the media and philanthropic companies linked to press organs, in order to counter the influence of Russia.
Media, Philanthropy and … British Embassy
In particular, the Thomson Reuters Foundation (philanthropic structure of the Thomson Reuters media group which owns the news agency of the same name) and the BBC Media Action (charity of the BBC) are said to have taken part in confidential influence programs, conducted under the supervision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The investigative site founded by journalist Max Blumenthal mentions, among several influential initiatives involving various actors, training programs for Russian journalists and supervised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Their goal ? Produce, in the words of the leaked documents, an “attitude change among participants” and foster a “positive impact” on their “perception of the UK”. All in order to “counter the narrative of the Russian government [dans le domaine] media and information space ”and“ in consultation with the British Embassy in Moscow ”.
If RT France was not able to verify the authenticity of the many leaked documents, the main parties contacted did not deny them, even citing “stolen documents” in the case of BBC Media Action.
As reported by The Grayzone, this “information war” is said to be taking place within the framework of a program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known under the name of “Counter-disinformation and media development” (Counter Disinformation and Media Development). : CDMD). It is within the framework of this program that the British authorities have set up an entity soberly called “the Consortium”, in which the media and government officials have come together.
Counter the Russian narrative and promote that of NATO
It is also in this context that the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the BBC Media Action are said to have offered multi-million dollar contracts to the British authorities to train Russian journalists through tours or training funded by the FCO, and in in line with its political agenda: counter Russian influence and promote a pro-NATO narrative in Russian-speaking regions. In several proposals made to the British Foreign Office, the Reuters charity is said to boast of a global influence network of 15,000 journalists and employees, including 400 in Russia.
Contacted by RT France, the Foundation nevertheless presents itself as “a legal entity distinct from Thomson Reuters and [de l’agence de presse] Reuters ”and ensures that it does not maintain any editorial link with these two companies. As for its funding (part of which comes from “donations” from the Thomson Reuters group), the foundation specifies in its press release that they are “various” and include “companies, governments and foundations”. Without denying the authenticity of the documents, the philanthropic organization further specifies: “We often make calls for tenders for public funds, alone or as part of a consortium. […] this funding supports our independent work in training journalists. ”
Also joined by RT France, BBC Media Action is also asserting its “independent” status, and denounces “false and unverified allegations based on stolen documents”, the authenticity of which it does not deny either. Stressing that it does not “work in Russia”, the organization specifies that it relies “on the support of donors, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.
Still according to The Grayzone, the consortium of companies set up by the British state had the task of highlighting supposedly independent media such as Meduza, a Russian-speaking media very popular within the opposition, or even Mediazona, founded by feminist rock group Pussy Riot. Another objective displayed in one of the leaked documents: to teach “hyper-local media organs” to improve, with a dedicated budget, their referencing on the internet “to provide alternative sources of information to RT.com for the Russian-speaking public seeking “news in Russian” “.
British media Bellingcat, already pinned down in the past for its links with Atlanticist networks and the United Kingdom government, is also said to have taken part in the authorities’ program. Still according to the leaked documents, Bellingcat, who is nevertheless worried about “Russian interference in North Macedonia”, would have participated in the training of Macedonian journalists, in particular with the assistance of the DFR Lab, a program of the Atlantic Council. Solicited by RT France, Bellingcat had not responded at the time of publication of this article.
Moscow denounces a “propaganda machine”
These revelations have made cringe on the side of Moscow, while Russia itself sees itself regularly accused by its opponents of having recourse to “propaganda”.
“According to Foreign Office documents that have leaked onto the Internet, the UK government provides financial support through intermediaries and directly manages the operation of various news agencies. He would also have set up a network of agents of influence in the Russian-speaking segment of social networks, ”thus summarized, on February 20 on Facebook, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova.
Denouncing the “London propaganda machine” and saying that she was waiting for the reaction of the British authorities, Maria Zakharova continued: “We will still have to pronounce on this because millions of pounds have been wasted to finance these campaigns. secret information. “
This “double standard” only further discredits the politicians of theestablishment
“British agents were using the BBC and Reuters to deploy exactly the same tactics that politicians and media commentators accused Russia of using,” said independent parliamentarian Chris Williamson, contacted by Grayzone.
The former Labor MP notably testified: “When I tried to deepen [les activités secrètes du CDMD], the ministers refused to allow me access to any document or correspondence relating to the activities of this organization. I was told that disclosure of this information could “disrupt and undermine the effectiveness of the program.” All his requests for information had been rejected on grounds of national security. “The BBC and Reuters describe themselves as an irreproachable, unbiased and authoritative source of global news but both are now extremely compromised by these revelations. This “double standard” only further discredits the politicians of theestablishment“, he added.