Reuters’ alleges “censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials and even physical threats to our journalists” in Russia; the Foreign Ministry responds

On January 31, 2017, Reuters’ Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler sent a message to reporters “Covering Trump the Reuters Way”. In it, he also said:

Reuters is a global news organization that reports independently and fairly in more than 100 countries, including many in which the media is unwelcome and frequently under attack. I am perpetually proud of our work in places such as Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists. We respond to all of these by doing our best to protect our journalists, by recommitting ourselves to reporting fairly and honestly, by doggedly gathering hard-to-get information – and by remaining impartial. We write very rarely about ourselves and our troubles and very often about the issues that will make a difference in the businesses and lives of our readers and viewers. [1]

He also published his message on Reuters’ website for the public to read

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to Adler’s statements in her briefing on February 3, 2017 [2]:

Reuters’ allegations regarding Russia

We have taken note of Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler’s message to the agency’s staff about covering President Trump and his administration. We wouldn’t have taken note of this had not the agency itself drawn attention to this message by publishing it on the agency’s website. I want to stress that the way Reuters operates is not our concern, and the way it covers President Trump does not fall within the competence of the Russian Foreign Ministry. This message is designed for the staff but its open publication has made it a manifesto available to millions of readers. Wed have no doubt that it was a deliberate action on the part of Reuters. Again, I want to stress that we do not comment on the internal recommendations of editorial offices, but we could not leave the following part of the Reuters message unanswered.

According to Mr Adler’s message, Russia is a nation “in which we [Reuters staff] sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.” How can we ignore this? All of this concerns Reuters staff in Russia, Mr Adler writes. Are you serious? Can you tell me exactly when all of this simultaneously, or at least one of these attacks, was directed at your journalists?

We have asked Reuters for a comment. Nobody there could tell us what this means. We asked if any Reuters staff have had any problems in Russia. They attend our briefings and other events held by the Foreign Ministry and other Russian government agencies. A party was recently held for foreign journalists where Reuters leaders could directly approach Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to ask questions of concern to them. Why are you here if the working conditions are so bad? And why don’t we know about the above attacks, if they really happened? This is masochistic behaviour.

I would like to tell you a secret, which is not a secret to many of you because you are privy to it. Meetings with foreign journalists are held every Wednesday morning in the Foreign Ministry’s Press Centre, to which we invite absolutely all media representatives accredited in Moscow. These meetings are also attended by members of the Press Centre who are responsible for creating good living and working conditions for foreign journalists in Russia. We have not heard any Reuters journalist complain about working conditions in Russia over the past 18 months. So who’s lying? Your editor-in-chief? Is your editor-in-chief lying to the whole world when he claims that you have encountered censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats in Russia? Or do you hide the truth from him? It’s unthinkable that Reuters lies to the public, which means that there is only one answer to this question.

We have said this before but we would like to stress again: we do not divide journalists into good and bad. If we have any complaints, for example against politicians, we say so openly. We don’t deny visas or accreditation for publishing information we regard as biased. We work in keeping with Government Resolution No. 1055 of September 13, 1994, The Rules of Accreditation and Stay of Correspondents of Foreign Mass Media on the Territory of the Russian Federation. The Foreign Ministry acts as the coordinator in this sphere, which is why I am talking about this now. Our relations with foreign journalists are based on these rules only. I expect Reuters to provide detailed explanations. Once again, you are not telling the truth about this issue. We maintain close cooperation with Reuters in accordance with the ethics of our profession and Russian law. The head of the agency’s Moscow bureau can tell you this. If they have any questions they want us to comment on, we always answer them. I know that some six months ago we received a letter from Reuters regarding an incident with a staff journalist that did not involve the Foreign Ministry. We looked into the matter and provided exhaustive information about it. We cannot imagine why Mr Adler should say this for the whole world to hear. What he says is not true.

We have been doing our utmost to help you exercise your professional duties regardless of what we think about the materials you publish. If we have any questions about your materials, we say so openly, publish refutations or highlight what we consider important regardless of political likes and dislikes.

I would like to draw your attention to the following. The above message has been published by the editor-in-chief of a news agency in Britain, a country where Russian journalists are being harassed. Look at what is happening to Russia Today, what with complaints and threats of closing RT issued almost every month. For the past few months we have been working to prevent the RT accounts from being blocked. I am asking Mr Adler again: Are you serious? Look at what your country is doing to Russian journalists for political reasons. You are harassing them although Russian journalists do not violate British laws and otherwise behave as journalists do around the world. There may be problems with visas or accreditations, but these are minor technical problems that are easily solved. I would like Mr Adler to provide an example of the censorship his journalists have allegedly encountered in Moscow. Just one example, please? Although I cannot understand in principle how Moscow could censor Reuters materials.


[1] The whole message from Adler “Covering Trump the Reuters Way” is here: http://www.reuters.com%5Bslash)article/rpb-adlertrump-idUSKBN15F276

[2] http://www.mid.ru/en/press_service/spokesman/briefings/-/asset_publisher/D2wHaWMCU6Od/content/id/2623713

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