REMOTE CONTROL

A journalist quit state-funded Russian TV, citing “lies” in its plane crash coverage

Maybe he looks a little too comfortable?
Maybe he looks a little too comfortable?
Image: AP Photo/Yuri Kochetkov, Pool
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A Russia Today correspondent resigned this morning in protest of the Kremlin-funded network’s coverage of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was shot down yesterday over eastern Ukraine.

The journalist, Sara Firth, who is based in London, said the network’s crash coverage—which has advanced theories that the Ukrainian military was responsible for downing the plane—was “the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.” Officials in the US and Ukraine believe a Russian-made missile system destroyed the plane, though they’ve been unable to establish clear accountability (paywall) because the weapons could be in the hands of any of the three forces near the contested area: the Ukrainian military, the Russian military, or pro-Russian separatist groups.

Firth argued that RT was acting as a mouthpiece for the Russian government:

“It was the total disregard to the facts,” she told BuzzFeed, adding:

It’s Russia Today all over, it’s flirting with that border of overtly lying. You’re not telling a lie, you’re just bringing something up. I didn’t want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we’re handling it like that.

I couldn’t do it any more. Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.

Firth joined a Twitter exchange with a colleague, Polly Boiko, earlier in the day in which a viewer had tweeted “How do you sleep at night, taking money to spread Putin’s lies? All those dead children on that plane.” Firth appeared to agree with the viewer’s argument.

Firth is the second RT correspondent this year to resign abruptly, citing a lack of editorial independence. In March, Liz Wahl, a correspondent for RT America, quit live on air, declaring, “I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.” The same month, a third RT journalist, Abby Martin, pointedly criticized Russian intervention in Ukraine live on camera, though she has stayed on at the network. “I think that, honestly, it would look really bad if I got fired,” she told the AP.