On Wednesday [23 November] the European Parliament voted to pass a resolution to “respond to information warfare by Russia.” In a report written by Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, RT and Sputnik news agency were singled out as being among the most dangerous “tools” of “hostile propaganda.”
To get his opinion on the matter, RT reached out to Philippe Leruth, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IJF).
RT: Why was this resolution discussed in the first place, never mind passed?
PL: I really couldn’t know this, but I know this resolution is highly controversial – only 44 percent of the MEPs voted in favor. There were many abstentions, which shows there was a big discussion. But we couldn’t really understand this.
RT: What exactly is the fear? Are we right now warping the fragile minds of European readers? What do they worry about?
PL: We really don’t believe that you can counter propaganda, because they say there is propaganda, I should not say this, but if there is propaganda don’t fight it with propaganda. We believe in ethical journalism, in media literacy and in responsible journalism, and not that way.
RT: The word ‘propaganda’ gets thrown around an awful lot. Was there any evidence or a description of what propaganda is, or did they give an example of how the Russian media isn’t telling the truth?
PL: No, I couldn’t say on what it was based. At least, when you name a media by name, which is highly unusual, first of all you should give them the right to defend themselves, and second, you should show exactly what you mean by saying they are doing propaganda.
RT: What about the timing? Why do you think this initiative was discussed at this particular moment in time?
PL: Well, I find it very unfortunate because as we said, the International Federation of Journalists, which I am chairing from June this year, and its European Branch, we have been working on dialogue between Russian and so-called western journalists. There were several meetings that year and one will be held in Moscow in December with the support of the EU delegation in Russia. So it’s very difficult to understand why the European parliament took this initiative, which is jeopardizing this dialogue.
RT: The actual resolution itself was fascinating because it says the EU is still committed to democracy, media freedom and media pluralism. How can you limit freedom and give it at the same time?
PL: We have one principle which is very clear. In journalism, facts are sacred, comments are free. So as long as you are reporting … the facts … [accurately] you are free to have an opinion. That’s freedom of expression. So once again, if they considered the details of this resolution and considered [that] the media had not described the facts the right way, they should one, have shown on what occasion, and two, had invited them to defend themselves.
RT: Do you think there is an anti-Russian narrative existing in the West, in Europe particularly?
PL: Well, I wouldn’t dare myself to have such an opinion. Evidently, there are tensions, there are problems between Russia and the European Union. There were sanctions and there were counter-sanctions, but I am not a politician, I will not comment on this.
I will state this state of tensions exists, but what bothers us is that in this very particular case media are incriminated, and we as a federation of journalists, we are defending the journalists, and we are promoting dialogue. Once again, we may work in different countries but we have one profession based on the same ethical principles.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT. Nor do they necessarily represent those of Human Wrongs Watch