Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, a U.S. government-funded news organization, has cut funding forThe Interpreter magazine, an online publication that has critically covered Russia.
Michael Weiss, a Daily Beast senior editor who also serves as editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, told The Huffington Post that RFE/ RLs management made the decision to stop funding the magazine last autumn, before Donald Trumpselection victory.
While RFE/ RL stopped paying Weiss three-person team for The Interpreter at the end of December, following the conclusion of a one-year contract, the news organization agreed to continue paying them for work onPolygraph.info, a new fact-checking and propaganda debunking site launched with Voice of America.
Weiss was lately informed that his team would not get another contract for 2017 for is currently working on Polygraph, but agreed to a short-term bargain through the end of February. After that, the Interpreter staff can potentially freelance for the new site.
Though the decision to cut funding predated the 2016 election, the timing of it merely adds to fears over how U.S. government-supported outlets such as RFE/ RL and VOA will encompass Russia during a Trump administration.
Congresspassed legislationin December giving the president the authority to select a chief executive to result the stable of U.S. government-funded networks, which have a budget of about $750 million and typically encompass regions where there isnt a strong independent press. That month, Politicoreportedon fears within government-funded media that Trump could use the outlets for his own propaganda purposes and that the president and his allies could change the agencys posture toward Russia.
Such fears stem from Trumps and his squads embrace of Russia.Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin. He recentlyechoedPutins claims that the Russian chairman hasnt backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine, despite evidence to the contrary. Several of Trumps former aides have been investigatedover their ties to Russia, and national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedlydiscussed sanctions with Russia before Trump took office and amid the fallout from Russian hackers targeting Democratic officials during the election.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were founded in the mid-2 0th century to counter Soviet propaganda by broadcasting into Americas Cold War rival and its satellites, with the two organizations later merging in the 1970 s. In recent years, Putin hascracked down on the Prague-based outlets ability to broadcast in Russia, and previous RFE/ RL managements havesignificantly cutits staff working in Moscow.
In January 2016, RFE/ RL announced it would be funding The Interpreter, which had been launched three years earlier by the Institute of Modern Russia, a think tank funded in part by the family of exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The news didnt go over well with some in Russia, evident by an op-edin the Kremlin-backed RT: American state media partners with neocon smear blog: RFE/ RL falls from the moral high ground.
An RFE/ RL spokesman told HuffPost that the original content-sharing arrangement with The Interpreter was for one year, and expired at the end of December 2016.
In the meantime, RFE/ RL is having to address financial pressures resulting from the current federal fund situation, the spokesman told , noting theres the potential for further rescissions to our budget in this fiscal year. The spokesman pointed out that the organization just launchedRussian-language digital TV channel Current Time and hasundertaken other efforts to be responsible to changing needs in the region we serve.
The budget for The Interpreter was about $ 120,000 a year, according to Weiss. The site has three staffers managing editor James Miller as well as Catherine Fitzpatrick and Pierre Vaux, who each serve in a translator and analyst posture and also publishes outside contributions. Weiss told new leadership of RFE/ RL carried some concern last autumn about fund a publication for which they didnt have editorial control, but also continued supporting the project for several more months and hadnt objected to its coverage.
The Interpreter has continued publishing without financial support, though Weiss hopes to remedy that.
Well, the nice thing about operating a shoestring operation is that its usually not very hard to keep it running while youre in search of new string, Weiss told HuffPost. My guys have never actually done this for the money if they had, boy did they get into the incorrect line of work. It was always since they are dedicated a shit. And the success of The Interpreter far surpassed our expectations.
Since 2013, The Interpreter had been translating articles from Russian news sources, along with publishing original the information and analysis. The site critically covered Russias annexation of Crimea, its backing of separatists in Ukraine and the countrys shifting diplomatic relationship under Trump.
We literally wrote the book on Kremlin disinformation and propaganda, which is why whenever I hear the term weaponization applied to media, refugees, emails or tweets, I laugh, Weiss told. Were the only resource that has catalogued every event of significance in Ukraine, every day, since protesters got shot in Kiev. At the least, its been satisfying to see that what we were saying and writing three years ago about security threats posed by Putin has now become the conventional wisdom.