Occupied Territories of Ukraine: Russia propaganda machine continues to absorb local media
While independent media outlets have been forced to close, those loyal to the Kremlin continue their ascent in the Russian propaganda machine. Two Ukrainian channels in occupied territories, Luhansk 24 and Union.TV, officially join the Russian National Association of Broadcasters (NAT). Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces the systematic control of the Kremlin over Ukrainian media in the illegally annexed territories.
In recognition of their role as Kremlin mouthpieces, it was Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko in person who announced that the Ukrainian TV channels Luhansk 24 and Union.TV have joined the Russian National Association of Broadcasters (NAT) at the opening of the association’s annual congress in Moscow on 23 November.
They are now part of an organisation with more than 600 members at the heart of the Russian media empire that is led by Aleksei Malinin – who built his career at the state broadcaster VGTRK and Ministry of Communication – and Russian propaganda flagbearer Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT.
“The formal incorporation of the local TV channels Luhansk 24 and Union.TV into the largest professional organisation of Russian propaganda media confirms what RSF has been denouncing, Russia’s systematic control over the media in the illegally annexed Ukrainian territories. This is further proof of the disappearance of reliable news media in this region, which began almost ten years ago.
The two TV channels have a significant local reach in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. A Ukrainian media outlet created in 2001, Union TV came under the control of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” in 2014, while Luhansk 24 was founded by the Luhansk separatist forces. Both channels display the colours of the Russian flag and the letter Z, the sign used by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. And they relay Russian disinformation about the war.
Only media that toe the Kremlin line can operate in the occupied territories. Independent journalists are hunted down by the Russian forces, leading to frequent arrests or disappearances. The Russian propaganda system continues to reinforce itself by opening propaganda schools and disseminating disinformation on a massive scale.