Tuesday, March 4, 2014

UPDATED: Russia Today Host Denounces Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Refuses Trip To Crimea

Abby Martin is serious
Martin: Honest but still employed
March 4, 2014 - News service Russia Today (RT) is funded by the Russian government. Some call RT the Kremlin's overseas propaganda channel. So it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for them when Abby Martin, popular host of "Breaking The Set," wrapped up her show Monday night with a monolog criticizing Russia's invasion of Crimea in the Ukraine. Martin is an American who works at RT's studios in New York City.

How did RT react to Martin's brave honesty? In typical Russian fashion, they said they would send Martin off to Crimea to get a "better understanding" of situation on the ground. 

Liz Wahl, former RT news anchor and producer
Liz Wahl: Honestly Quit
UPDATE:  One of Abby Martin's colleagues, Liz Wahl, was paying close attention to Tuesday's Martin-RT spat. Wahl, a news anchor and producer in RT's Washington, D.C. bureau, quickly expressed her moral support for Martin on Twitter:

My girl @AbbyMartin: Russia Today Host Abby Martin Goes Spectacularly Off-Message In #Ukraine Broadcast http://t.co/n8A2LPIFX4

Wahl was thinking carefully about her own next move.

On Wednesday, she shocked viewers by quitting live on air, saying that she could no longer work for a network "that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning." More, with video of Wahl's resignation.

At the end of her Tuesday show, Martin said, "What Russia did is wrong. "I admittedly don't know as much as I should about Ukraine's history or the cultural dynamics of the region but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer and I will not sit here and apologize or defend military aggression."

She finished with this: "All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full blown cold war between multiple super powers. Until then I'll keep telling the truth as I see it. Have a good night everyone, I'll see you back here to break the set tomorrow."

What Martin said about her lack of knowledge about Ukraine came back to bite her. Russia Today's official statement, released on Tuesday afternoon, said "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. 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."

Martin's public defiance: Facebook, Tuesday afternoon
The punchline: "In her comment Ms. Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea," said RT. "As such we’ll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story."

No reprimands, RT said -- other than ripping her out of the comfort of New York and whisking her off to a war zone. Would RT put Abby Martin up in decent hotel in Crimea? It would be awful to think of her, a sophisticated New York gal, bunking in Russian barracks with a bunch of drunken, smelly Cossack cabbage eaters.  But she's not going to Crimea.

Abby Martin has made her refusal public on both Facebook and TwitterAbby Martin has the best furrowed-brow look of righteous indignation in all of news broadcasting. She is courageous and outspoken, and not afraid to use these qualities for resisting RT editors or their Kremlin overlords. Today she seems more powerful than Pussy Riot in concert.

"The footage has since gone viral," reports The Independent (UK), "with some surmising that Martin's moment of defiance could be met with some severe punishment by her employers. However, sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that she was reading from the auto-cue and, therefore, presumably had permission from producers of the show to express her beliefs." Really?

Reading from the auto-cue? Josie Ensor at The Telegraph (UK) disagrees, calling Martin's remarks "unscripted." Whatever, who cares? Scripted or not, they were her words. Martin said that "the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation." It is, therefore, ironic that Ensor called Martin's calm and rational commentary a "tirade," which is defined as "a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation." Martin's calm commentary lasted a mere 75 seconds. Ensor's exaggerated characterization of Martin's comment, then, is actually disinformation and at least a little bit disappointing. 
Also See:
Russian TV Host Who Slammed Moscow Says She Won't Go To Crimea NPR
Outspoken Russia Today Anchor Declines to Be Sent to Crimea ABC
Liz Wahl, unemployed, says quitting RT not 'a self-promotional stunt' Politico
Russian news website hacked, word "Russian" replaced with "Nazi" ITProPortal
Abby Martin Blasts Rachel Maddow for 9/11 Comments - YouTube