Another Russia Today anchor resigned Friday amid reports that a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over the Ukraine. Sara Firth tweeted this morning that she had left the US-based, Kremlin-owned television network.
I resigned from RT today. I have huge respect for many in the team, but I’m for the truth. pic.twitter.com/mZ1g0R7N0D
— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) July 18, 2014
Firth resigned, she said, because she felt the news channel was “disrespectfully” blaming the Ukraine for Thursday’s disaster that killed 298 people aboard the Malaysian airliner. “I couldn’t do it any more, we’re lying every single day. Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it,” Firth told Buzzfeed. She is the second news anchor to publicly quit Russia Today in recent months. Liz Wahl resigned on air in March, saying at the time that she could not “be part of a network funded by the Russian government which whitewashes the actions of (Russian President) Putin.” But Wahl and Firth are not the first journalists who felt forced to leave the company due to questionable news coverage.
Jamila Bey, a former host for Russia Today’s sister radio station, Voice of Russia, was among a handful of journalists who left the station in November after complaining about plagiarism, bias and other ethical concerns in terms of the editorial product. Bey, who has also appeared on Russia Today and contributed to All Digitocracy, says the two companies, until this week, had been indistinguishable on paper.
Voice of Russia was abruptly shut down on Monday amid allegations of tax dodging and employee discrimination, according to a report in The Washington Free Beacon. Bey is one of the employees who filed a discrimination complaint against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year.
“(Russia Today) is the more well-known arm of Kremlin funded media here in the US, but what existed as Voice of Russia Radio, pretty much is run now by cronies of Vladimir Putin,” Bey said in an interview with All Digitocracy in March. “The programming before was ‘we’d really like to do stories that show Russia in a positive light.’ Now there is the mandate, ‘you will do stories that show Russia in a positive light.’
“It’s not what I believe, as an American, is a free press,” continued Bey who now works in public relations. “It’s not actual media, it’s not real reporting. This is all in line with what the Kremlin wants the world to know.”
While both Wahl and Firth resigned, Bey along with five other employees were dismissed from Voice of Russia, half of them people of color. The company cited a number of factors for the dismissals. To some employees, poor finances were blamed. To others, a change in editorial direction was the reason, Bey said. Bey believes she was actually let go because she repeatedly protested lack of editorial policies and rampant plagiarism. She even went as far as notifying victims that their work had been stolen.
Roman Tokman, who was Bey’s boss and the budget director for Voice of Russia and is the business manager for Russia Today, did not return phone calls or emails from All Digitocracy.
“Quitting on air, while something I fantasized about, is something I chose not to do,” said Bey, six months after she was laid off. “The company that runs Russia Today and its associated journalistic outfits is but a house of cards. It will not stand in the face of common sense and facts.”
Click below to listen to the full interview with Bey that took place in March after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian military forces into Crimea, located in the eastern part of Ukraine.