Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

How Could ABC Use An RT Propagandist As A Source?

The utter gall of ABC to interview an RT employee, who is a professional Russian propagandist, about events in Russia, is galling. 

Ten seconds of research would have uncovered that little jewel, it’s on his Facebook page. Here he is on Twitter, Mark Sleboda (@MarkSleboda1) He also writes for Sputnik.  Here he is being interviewed by the BBC and clearly labeled an RT analyst (and espousing a very pro-Russian perspective of the MH17 shootdown by a Russian missile by Russian soldiers in July 2014). He’s also ex-US Navy (1993-1999).  C’mon, ABC.

I also wonder about Mark Sleboda’s belief in Free Speech especially since he no longer resides in the US, but in Moscow.  In his tweet he says, “Why do we even allow Western state media to broadcast in Russia and the rest of the world?” Screenshot below, within the story.

This makes me wonder about the integrity of ABC, supposedly a major news network.

I now question their ethics, if they do due diligence research, ask the tough questions?  Perhaps this is why we’re not reading about nor seeing footage or reports about the massive demonstrations against Putin or of the 1,300 arrested here in the States?  

I found it interesting that while researching a bit of background on this, to find out that Mark Sleboda, the RT employee, has me blocked on Twitter.  I guess I might be a wee bit more effective than I thought. I call that success. Thank you, Mark Sleboda, for keeping an open mind, making yourself available to others, and for obviously having a mature attitude. </end sarcasm> In the immortal words of Mr. T, “Pity the fool”. 

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is detained by police at a opposition protest in Moscow on 5 May. An analyst interviewed by ABC radio said the protests were small and HE dismissed the suggestion people had stayed away due to fear. Photograph: TASS / Barcroft Images

Russia analyst interviewed by ABC a ‘blatantly pro-Kremlin apologist’

RN breakfast program under fire for introducing Mark Sleboda as a ‘Moscow-based political analyst’ but not disclosing his work for the state-owned RT

A political analyst interviewed on ABC radio about the weekend protests against Russian president Vladimir Putin is a mouthpiece for the Kremlin, Russia experts have said.

Mark Sleboda, described by the ABC simply as a “Moscow-based political analyst”, was interviewed on Monday morning by Radio National host Fran Kelly.

Asked for his views on the anti-Putin demonstrations and the release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from custody, Sleboda said the protests were small and “lucky to have pulled 6,000 people”. He dismissed the suggestion people had stayed away due to fear. “I don’t think there’s any cause for people to be frightened,” he said.

“Putin’s approval has increased since the last election due to his handling of the economy and foreign policy,” he said. He defended the arrest of Navalny on the grounds he had broken the law by demonstrating and he said the opposition leader had been barred from running in the election because he had “twice been convicted of fraud”.

Alexey Muraviev, associate professor of national security and strategic studies at of Curtin University, said he fundamentally disagreed with much of what Sleboda said and he did not sound like an independent analyst.

“When he says that Navalny broke the law by protesting, that’s the official government line and the reality is every time something happens Navalny just gets neutralised by Putin forces.”

The ABC did not disclose during the nine-minute interview or on its website that Sleboda is an analyst for the state-owned English-language television channel Russia Today, now known as RT.

RT is a powerful PR arm of the Russian government which is used as a weapon in the global information war.

Kelly noted that Navalny’s supporters had chanted “Out with the Tsar”, a reference to the fact that Putin has been either prime minister or president of Russia “for almost 20 years and will be in until 2024”.

Sleboda responded that it was “exactly the same amount of time that Angela Merkel has been the leader of Germany”.

Kelly: “Will Angela Merkel be in for 24 years?”

Sleboda: “She just renewed for her fourth term, so 23 or 24, yes.”

Merkel, who was sworn in for a fourth term earlier this year despite her CDU party losing ground in September’s election, has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 – 13 years.

Muraviev said Sleboda did not utter “a single discordant note in terms of the official positions of the Putin administration”.

He said it was surprising to hear the US-born commentator expressing views that were “effectively reflective of the official position of the Kremlin”.

“He spoke as the promoter and the defender of the official position of Putin’s government,” Muraviev told Guardian Australia.

“Some of the statements he made were way too categorical, he debated, he argued, he advocated.

“To me he sounds either incredibly ill-informed or incredibly naive or somehow politically biased.”

Kyle Wilson, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies, said Sleboda was not a critical source the public broadcaster should rely on.

“In my view there is a question mark about the credibility of Sleboda as a commentator for two reasons,” Wilson told Guardian Australia. “Firstly he has for some years been a commentator for Russia Today and he represents the more extreme end of the spectrum in terms of offering the Kremlin view.

“Second he has an association with Alexander Dugin, who is a xenophobic, hard-right, nationalist ideologue about whom even the Kremlin has some doubts.

“So it seems to be reasonable to assume that Mark Sleboda is an apologist, a blatantly pro-Kremlin apologist.

“ABC radio is far more effective in dealing with matters that are extremely controversial when it offers a range of opinion.

“But to give a platform on a mainstream program to a Kremlin apologist doesn’t seem to be the most effective way of presenting controversial issues.”

The ABC said in a statement: “This was just one interview in the ABC’s long-term and comprehensive coverage of this area, which has involved interviewing a variety of analysts from a range of different perspectives. We will continue to cover these issues from an array of viewpoints.”

In 2014 Russia Today’s British channel was censured by the UK media regulatorfor coverage involving Sleboda. It was found to have breached the broadcasting code on impartiality over its coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including for one report in which Sleboda described the Ukrainian administration as a “putsch government” that came to power with the help of “a number of extremists”.