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The Sun vs Sputnik: Here’s how a British tabloid ran a hit piece on a Russian news agency

Copies of the first Sunday edition of the Sun newspaper, The Sun on Sunday, are displayed in a supermarket in Slough, U.K. on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. News Corp. returned to the Sunday tabloid market in the U.K. today as the company's 80-year-old Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch counts on readers having moved on from the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World seven months ago. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yesterday, Britain’s infamous Sun newspaper released yet another hit piece against ‘Russian media’ outlets which ‘aim to destabilise Britain’.

It must have been a slow news day. Now I’m all for recycling – any small measure one can take to ease pollution and the destruction of plant and animal life is a good thing. But recycling clichés seems to be a step too boring.

The piece hits out at Sputnik, a Russian news outlet that used to be known as Voice of Russia. Like its counterpart Voice of America, it receives funds from the Russian government, just as the BBC receives its funds from a regressive tax called the licence fee, authorised under the auspices of the British government. So far, so mundane.

But if anyone is still awake, it gets even more boring. The article, published in a newspaper as famous for having topless girls on its third page as it is for libelling supporters of Liverpool FC (football club), is filled with sexual innuendo implying that Russian females are somehow inherently unqualified to have any sort of career in journalism.

I’d question whether the piece’s author, Simon Tomlinson ought to have a career in journalism as the piece is rife with contradiction. On the one hand the piece is about a well-known news agency and two individuals who admittedly work for it. Yet the piece refers to a ‘secret propaganda war’. An international news agency is the logical and linguistic antithesis of secret, it’s out in the open for anyone to read whether they agree or disagree with some or all of the editorial perspectives on offer. There is nothing unique let alone uniquely Russian about a country which has an official news outlet and hundreds of independent news outlets. Just about every country in the world has such outlets operating in a similar fashion.

The biggest difference between Russian media and other global media outlets is that both official and private news agencies offering insights into Russian politics, society and Russian perspectives on world events, tend to have contributors from a variety of backgrounds. This is because Russian media were the first and fastest to embrace the modern age of online global media. When other media outlets wrote off the internet as an unserious platform, Russian agencies embraced it. This had the effect of people throughout the world, and young people in particular, finding themselves drawn to Russian media.

This is actually the opposite of propaganda. It’s not that Russian media goes out in search of an audience. A global audience has reached out to Russian media outlets for perspectives which question old fashioned narratives coming from old fashioned platforms.

From fake breasts to fake news, one can always rely on The Sun for a good dose of inauthenticity.

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