Russia Today Correspondent Ordered to Blame Ukraine Over Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash, Correspondent Cannot Lie for Putin and Resigned
By Annie Dee | July 19, 2014 3:10 PM EST
Sara Firth, a Russia Today correspondent who is based on London, had it with the Kremlin-funded news channel because she cannot take the idea of reporting lies on Thursday's Malaysia Airlines disaster and resigned.
People light candles at the Dutch embassy for the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, in Kiev July 17, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
Huffington Post reports corespondent Sara Firth announced she is resigning 2 hours after she tweeted that Russia Today anchors "do work for Putin" and spread "lies." Firth further alleged that anchors are tasked to "obscure the truth." However, this time, with the sensitive issue of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash, she cannot and will not do it.
Buzzfeed reports Firth tendered her resignation to protest how Russia Today wanted her to report the Malaysia Airlines crash. Firth, who has been working for the news channel for about 5 years now, claims the channel is trying to pin the disaster on the Ukrainian government even without sufficient facts yet. She thinks this was "disrespectful" and goes against her principle of reporting only the truth.
"When this story broke I ran back into the newsroom and saw how we were covering it already and I just knew I had to go," she shared.
"It was the total disregard to the facts. We threw up eyewitness accounts from someone on the ground openly accusing the Ukrainian government [of involvement in the disaster], and a correspondent in the studio pulled up a plane crash before that the Ukrainian government had been involved in and said it was 'worth mentioning'," she added.
"It's not worth mentioning. 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," she detailed. "I couldn't do it any more. Every single day we're lying and finding sexier ways to do it."
Firth also claims the news channel hates reporters who would not report what it asks them to report. The news channel takes great pains to ensure reporters will not go off message, Firth alleged, especially for big stories.
"The way it works with a story like this is that the people who are assigned are very obedient. The second you start to question or report honestly then you're a problem.
"The first thing that happens is that they assign the usually least experienced in RT, the second is everyone else who's involved [starts] phoning guests that have a particular viewpoint and are going to say a particular thing."
Firth claims that in her years of service—even though she's aware that something is wrong with the organisation—she never lied in any of her reports. She said she has high respects for her "talented" co-reporters who are striving to tell the truth in spite of the organisational barriers they have to fight in order to do so.
"It's great team, so talented. But at the heart of that organisation it's rotten. Until they have people operating at the top level who want to tell the truth and tell the facts then it's not going to change."
"There is a perception of RT as an evil genius but it's actually just dangerous incompetence," she concluded.
Russia Today has been contacted for comment, Buzzfeed claims.
This is not the first time that a high-profile Russia Today employee resigned. It could be remembered that anchor Liz Wahl also resigned this year and she did it live on air.
Buzzfeed later reports a counterstatement from Russia Today representative. Anna Belkina, head of communications at Russia Today, provided:
“We were not surprised by Sara Firth’s decision to leave RT after 5 years as a Moscow and London correspondent, as she has recently informed us that she was likely to take an offer from another firm.” “The plane crash is an absolutely terrible tragedy, there are a lot of questions that surround it and everybody is looking for answers. More than 15 RT journalists are working on this story – from Moscow, from the Russian-Ukrainian border, London, Berlin, Washington. RT Spanish journalist Francisco Guaita was one of the first TV correspondents to get to the scene late last night. Our reporters are in the Netherlands and Malaysia.”
“Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth. We believe that truth is what our reporters see on the ground, with their own eyes, and not what’s printed in the morning London newspaper. In our coverage, RT, unlike the rest of the media, did not draw conclusions before the official investigation has even begun. We show all sides of the story, even if everyone else has already decided which side is to blame.”
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