State Department spokesperson John Kirby lost his temper with RT journalist Gayane Chichakyan during a briefing Wednesday, telling her he would not put her on the same level as other journalists because of her employer.
Lately, True Activist and other alternative media outlets have been reporting the escalation of what can only be called a war on the free flow of information. Google and Facebook have now announced new plans to halt ad revenue to pages and articles that it deems as being “false.” Corporate-owned media outlets have also taken to circulating their own lists of what news is “fake” despite providing no specific details as to why they are fake or misleading, themselves breaking what should be an important part of any journalistic endeavor – offering readers ample evidence to make their own conclusions. Now, it appears that the US State Department has joined the fray, as State Department spokesperson John Kirby announced on Wednesday that he would not treat all journalists at State Department briefings equally if he took issue with the news agency that employs them.
During the briefing, RT’s reporter Gayane Chichakyan asked Kirby to name the specific hospitals and locations that he claims were bombed by the Russian and Syrian governments. Kirby at first responded that he didn’t know any specifics despite the gravity of his accusation and did not reveal the sources of these claims. When pressed further, Kirby lost his temper saying: Here’s a good question: Why don’t you ask your Defense Ministry what they are doing? You work for Russia Today [RT], and so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kind of questions that you are asking me?” Chichakyan pointed out that specific details were necessary because RT or other news agencies could not ask Russia’s Defense Ministry without knowing the locations of the alleged bombings, yet Kirby chose not to elaborate.
Kirby’s poor response promoted the Associated Press’ Matt Lee to intervene. Lee told Kirby “Please be careful about saying ‘your Defense Ministry’ and things like that – she’s a journalist, she’s just like the rest of us are.” Kirby, however, interrupted Lee to add that he would not respect RT because it is a state-owned outlet. Kirby said “I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.” Kirby’s response later prompted another State Department official to apologize to Chichakyan.
Though RT does receive funding from Russia’s government, many other news agencies held in “high esteem” by the establishment are also state-funded, yet have not received the same level of backlash. For example, National Public Radio (NPR), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are all state-owned news organizations themselves. However, among all of the numerous state-owned new agencies active in today’s world, only RT has been called out as the “propaganda arm” of the government that funds it. It is very telling that such rhetoric against the broadcaster only began as tensions between the US and Russia began to escalate, as this most recent example highlights. The US media’s subsequent demonization of Russia has left RT in the crosshairs.
Recently, RT’s United Kingdom branch had its bank accounts closed without warning and without reason, complicating the news agency’s ability to report effectively with its cash flow essentially shut off. This latest example of incompetence and unprofessional bias on the part of the State Department is a clear indicator that any media outlet reporting something contrary to the US government’s narrative will be targeted as “fake” news and “propaganda” as the government moves to censor its critics.
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