Has the Crimea conflict found its first media heroine, and in the process boosted the ratings of Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded international news channel?
In an outburst of journalistic independence Tuesday, Abby Martin, the American anchor of Russia Today made an impassioned attack on Russian intervention in the Ukraine Tuesday.
One day later, she reappeared on Wednesday to present the Breaking the Set slot, saying that she stood by what she had said, but, in a promo for her own and RT’s independence, had not lost her job.
“Before we wrap up the show I wanted to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military occupation of Crimea,” Martin said at the end of a Tuesday’s Breaking the Set slot.
“Just because I work here, for RT, doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nations affairs. What Russia did is wrong,” she continued, before admitting she didn’t know as much as she should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the regions
“What I do know is that military intervention is never the answer and I will not sit here and apologize or defend military aggression. Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation,” Martin finished, walking off set.
To date, RT has reportedly towed the Kremlin line, calling the Russian troops in the Crimea “self-defense troops.” Martin’s righteous stand prompted an official response from RT.
“Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn’t beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby’s commentary on the Ukraine,” the statement read.
“We respect her views, and the views of all our journalists, presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands made against Ms Martin.
“In her comment, Ms Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such we’ll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicenter of the story.”
Martin refused via Twitter to accept a Crimea posting. By Wednesday RT and Martin appeared to have a mid-ground which could play to both Martin and RT’s advantage.
Yesterday, I made a personal and heartfelt statement about Ukraine that made some wavesacross the mainstream media to say the least. Here’s the problem now: I speak out about military intervention every singleday on the show, and I have been speaking out about U.S. involvement since the beginning and nne of those comments have made waves in the mainstream.,” Martin said.
“So I guess it’s a kind of sad commentary that my only criticism of Russia’s actions would get picked up when it fits the proper narrative. She pointed out that U.S. journalists – Phil Donahue, Peter Arnett at NBC – had been fired for going off script in their opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “RT was created to promote a Russian perspective of world events and clearly my personal statement goes completely out of line with our editorial line. But I do stand by everything I said.” And no, she had not lost her job, she added.
Neatly then, Martin has helped RT’s wishful repositioning, away from an Kremlin mouthpiece, to a channel which delivers an alternative take on nesws, different to incumbent news sources in the U.S. and indeed the U.K. Al Jazeera took that line, RT has gained popularity following suit.
Unfortunately, such interpretations do not make for strong news narrative. Martin’s time in the mainstream limelight may now be limited.