A London-based reporter for the Kremlin’s international news service RT quit Friday in protest over the way the network is covering the Malaysian Airlines disaster in Ukraine.
British-born Sarah Firth, who has worked for RT since 2009 initially in Moscow before transferring to London, says management insisted that reports suggested the Ukrainian government was responsible for shooting down flight MH-17.
She becomes the latest foreign-born RT reporter to quit over slanted news coverage. In March, Liz Wahl, from RT’s Washington, D.C. bureau quit after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea territory.
“I couldn’t do it anymore; every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it,” Firth told Buzzfeed.
Managers at RT had interfered and insisted mentioning an earlier plane crash that involved Ukrainian authorities.
“I didn’t want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we’re handling it like that,” Firth added.
RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan initially reacted on Twitter to the disaster Thursday by saying, “I’ve been working at the very heart of various breaking news for so long that I absolutely do not believe in conspiracy theories. But I do believe in simple Soviet chaos.” This reportedly has left many of the station’s Western-born staff deeply unimpressed.
Russian newspapers and media Saturday continued to question responsibility for the downing of the Boeing 777.
LifeNews, a Kremlin-connected Internet tabloid news service, quoted an air-traffic controller at eastern Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk International Airport claiming that due to heavy civil air traffic above the region, including flights from Indian and Singapore airlines, the Malaysian flight had been ordered to reduce its altitude by 500 meters.
On Saturday, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said that criminal investigators had arrived at the site of the MH17 crash and began taking an inventory of debris and human remains on the ground, although it was not clear whether they were part of an official Ukrainian government initiative or not.
RIA Novosti questioned claims Russian-backed rebels were responsible for shooting down the plane, quoting Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donestsk, saying no rebels had weapons capable of shooting down an aircraft at an altitude of six miles.
The same story also mentioned a 2001 incident in which Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian passenger plane over the Black Sea as it was en route to Tel Aviv, killing all 78 people on board.