By Graham Phillips
A couple of days ago, Ukrainian news channel ICTV did a 48-minute-show entitled ‘Anti-Zombie’ looking at the Russian news coverage of events in Donbass.
A comic-book ‘documentary’ including the usual standards – silly music, cartoon cutaways, ‘expert interviews’, cutting off clips part way through to suit etc – it was all there! Of the 48-minute running time, I found myself taking 14 minutes, between 11 and 25 –
All of the above – all taken out of context, of course, intoned over by that ever-present knowing, droll narrator. When out of context wasn’t enough, animation effects, silly music, cutaways to films, shows etc – all thrown in there, along with the sum of 15,000,000 roubles put out there (no source, of course) supposedly awarded to myself and other ‘Russian propagandists’.
I watched on, finding it all quite funny to be honest, especially the bit one of the ‘expert commentators’ emphasised that I was ‘very very important’ to the Russian cause – thoughts you can imagine the makers shared in awarding me almost a third of the overall running time.
Along with any number of statements they just made up to suit – that I ‘lie for money’, I’m supposedly ‘gay’ on the basis of a 16-year-old photo from student theatre, one even just that I’m a ‘bad person’ was the clear thrust – I’m a ‘well-paid operative of the Krelmin’, a ‘richly-imbursed Russian ‘propagandist’.
This really was news to me. I started doing ‘on location’ work with RT in April 2014 in Donetsk on a one-week contract paid a standard daily rate for a stringer / contributor. The contract was extended, week on week, until my first captivity deportation from Ukraine, at the end of May.
I then recorded a few pieces for RT while at the World Cup in Brazil, returned to report in Donbass, this time on a daily rate as a stringer / contributor. On my second day in Donetsk, I told RT I wanted to go and report from the battle going on at Donetsk airport. They told me not to. I went anyway, got captured, deported again, banned for 3 years.
RT then told me, nicely, that they really liked me, appreciated my work, but that I’d been rather disobedient, was too risky to work with at that time. I accepted this, returned to work in Donbass anyway, filmed for video agencies for around a month, then the Russian news channel ‘Zvezda‘ contacted me, asked me to record pieces for them.
No contract here, I pitched in a piece, if they took it I got paid for it – standard rate. They took around 8 of my pieces in September, October, and also didn’t take a few. Then, things went quiet for a month, with no Zvezda work until the end of November – at which point I got wounded covering frontline conflict. I got out of hospital, newsworthy events had picked up, and in the next 3 months I recorded around 15 further pieces for them.
I returned to the UK a month ago, made the decision last week that upon my return to reporting in Donbass, I’d like to find a new channel. I very much enjoyed working with Zvezda, but always like a new challenge.
In my time working for Russian media I’ve never been contacted by any Russian officials about my work, never been told what to say or report by my channels, or anyone, always just done my own thing, filmed and reported what’s there. Never received any more than the standard, going rate, for my pieces.
On the show, they introduce the section on myself with ‘Graham Phillips’ adventures in Ukraine‘. But what a real adventure – to turn me, from a British freelancer into a, perhaps even the, key cog of Russia’s ‘propaganda machine’.
I’ve never encountered any ‘propaganda machine’ on the Russian side – and given that I’m so important to whatever that is, if such a thing existed, I’m sure they would have contacted me by now.
What exists to an infinite level, the pro-Ukrainian ability to invent things to suit them, and then things to suit that!
I continue as a British freelance journalist. Ukrainian news continues as Ukrainian propaganda.