Russia’s Anti-Western, Pro-Assad Propaganda for the Arab World

In 2007, the Kremlin-owned television- and Internet-news platform RT (formerly Russia Today) opened an Arabic-language channel, which has since then become one of the most popular news outlets in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and several other Arab countries. RT, which began in 2005, offering only English-language broadcasting, was created to distribute pro-Russian propaganda to a non-Russian audience; it subsequently has created television channels, websites, and social- media accounts in several other languages. To RT, Moscow more recently added the Sputnik news service, which also features extensive Arabic-language content. Anna Borshchevskaya and Catherine Cleveland analyze the perspectives being spread by the two networks in the Middle East:

The RT and Sputnik websites typically publish brief news articles and occasionally longer op-eds. The quickly published factual articles help shape media opinion primarily through click-bait titles that often editorialize otherwise neutral content. Meanwhile, the lengthier op-eds and TV segments tend to present more overtly conspiratorial points of view, such as the video segment “The Vatican, the Masons, the CIA, and the Mafia . . . with Documents, Names, and Records of Assassinations” or the op-ed “Israel Announces Its Rights; The Crimea Is Ours.” Relying on conspiracy theories to develop a sense of “revealing the truth” is a tactic RT Arabic shares with its English-language sibling. . . .

[While] RT English has adopted a style that often employs sarcasm and irony to suggest holes in a “dominant narrative,” . . . RT Arabic relies on established media narratives—and specifically those that reinforce an anti-Western perspective. . . .

And while RT’s English-language coverage often inserts a positive picture of the Assad regime in a supposedly “alternative” view of groups such as the White Helmets, a volunteer aid outfit, [RT Arabic’s] coverage of Syria emphasizes Russia’s control over the situation, as exemplified in the assertion that Israel’s July 2018 downing of an Iranian drone over Israeli airspace occurred after affirming the drone was not of Russian origin, and in the repeated emphasis on both Russian and Assad military successes against “terrorists.” RT frames its coverage to cause maximum distrust of Syrian opposition groups. . . .

Coverage of Israel embodies RT Arabic’s inconsistent tone when faced with delicate subject matter. On the one hand, RT Arabic relies on the longstanding media practices of Arab countries, such as a focus on Israel’s military and civil actions against Palestinian communities and conspiracy theories about the reach of the Mossad. On the other hand, RT presents Israel as cautious and respectful of Russia’s regional interests. Such coverage lines up with the Kremlin’s desire to portray itself as a great power, to which a country like Israel is beholden.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Media, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia


What Donald Trump Gets Right about Israel and the Arabs

Oct. 17 2019

With a brisk history of American policy toward the Jewish state, Michael Doran highlights the failure of those who have seen a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as paramount to U.S. interests, and the success of those who have instead made a clear-eyed assessment of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Too often, writes Doran, “Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has functioned as a screen onto which outsiders project their own psychodramas”: a skewed perspective that led to the failed Oslo Accords and to the misguided condemnations of American moves like the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. (Free registration required.)

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Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, US-Israel relations