“I knew this was going to happen,” the former Russia Today reporter said. “I didn’t know anyone was going to resign, but when I saw the news [of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine], I thought, ‘this is going to get twisted for sure.’”
That former RT reporter spoke to the International Business Times on the condition of anonymity, but RT correspondent Sara Firth publicly announced her resignation on Twitter Friday, claiming that the Kremlin-funded news channel regularly encourages its reporters to “totally ignore” or “obscure the truth.”
Firth had worked for RT in London for five years, and she told the Guardian “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was RT’s suggestion that Ukraine was responsible for the deadly Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash on Thursday, which killed 298 civilians who were traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The prevailing theory in the first days following the crash is that pro-Russian groups are responsible for the missile that downed flight MH17, whether the attack on the commercial airliner was intentional or not. Missile experts investigating the air disaster Thursday determined the weapon was made by Russian military manufacturer Almaz-Antey, which was a target of the latest round of U.S. sanctions this week.
“It was the most shockingly obvious misinformation and it got to the point where I couldn’t defend it any more,” Firth told the Guardian of RT’s editorial stance. “When this story broke that was the moment I knew I had to go.”
This is the second sensational resignation of a RT correspondent this year. In March, just after Russia invaded Ukraine, RT America anchor Liz Wahl announced her departure on the air.
“Personally I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government which whitewashes the actions of [Russian President Vladmir] Putin,” Wahl said on March 5. “I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why after this newscast I’m resigning.”
Earlier that week, Abby Martin, arguably a better-known RT host than Wahl, openly criticized the Russian invasion of Crimea on her RT show “Breaking the Set.” "I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs. What Russia did is wrong," she said in the segment.
“People were kind of nervous, worried that they would fire Abby Martin,” our source said. In a statement to the Huffington Post UK, RT said that its reporters were free to express their views, though not on the air. Still, RT said Martin would not be reprimanded. Later, RT compared Martin favorably to Wahl in a statement to Buzzfeed:
“Ms. Wahl’s resignation comes on the heels of her colleague Abby Martin’s recent comments in which she voiced her disagreement with certain policies of the Russian government and asserted her editorial independence. The difference is, Ms. Martin spoke in the context of her own talk show, to the viewers who have been tuning in for years to hear her opinions on current events, the opinions that most media did not care about until two days ago. For years Ms. Martin has been speaking out against U.S. military intervention only to be ignored by the mainstream news outlets — but with that one comment, branded as an act of defiance, she became an overnight sensation. It is a tempting example to follow.”
Martin still hosts “Breaking the Set.” In recent days, her social media activity has focused more on Israel’s invasion of Gaza than the air disaster in Ukraine.
The former RT employee we spoke to said that, typically, reporters were not explicitly prohibited from covering certain stories that might not flatter the Putin administration. “They don’t ever say, ‘We’re not covering this.’ They’ll say things like, ‘We should wait for the Russian comment on this.’ But what’s the Russian comment going to be on Pussy Riot?”
The source also said that while RT promotes itself as anti-establishment -- the website boasts the tagline “Question More” -- the reality does not reflect that sentiment. The former employee lamented the lack of investigative reporting and claimed that most of RT’s stories are “twisted” from news reported in other outlets, like the New York Times. The source said that the bias wasn’t always necessarily pro-Russia, but “more anti-U.S. It’s definitely anti-U.S.”