Russian-language propaganda stations spread hate in Canada for Ukrainians, say critics

Of note:

A group of Russian-language journalists in Canada are demanding the federal government remove from this country’s airwaves a pair of Russian-language television channels the journalists say spread hate and propaganda.

Last week, Canadian television providers pulled English-language network RT, formerly known as Russia Today, from their services. But Russian-language channels, RTR Planeta and Channel One Russia, are still available and spreading “weapons grade war-mongering,” says a letter from the Canadian Association of Russian Language Media.

“This aggressive propaganda is used to justify Putin’s invasion, spread anti-Ukrainian hate and radicalize parts of the Russian speaking community in Canada,” reads the letter, signed by 18 journalists from a number of outlets including Russian Canadian Broadcasting, Russian Infotrade LTD and

“Even though we are fully committed and desperately trying to deliver to our viewers, listeners and readers the truth about unfolding events, in accordance with the international journalistic practises and standards, our voices are simply no match to the 24/7 Kremlin war propaganda machine.”

The organization has sent the letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. It asks that a directive be issued to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to pull all channels approved, controlled or owned by the Russian state from public airwaves.

RTR Planeta, an international service of Russian state-owned broadcaster VGTRK, and Channel One Russia are a source for Russians around the world of news and commentary in their language. However, the channels deliver mistruths more than anything, argues Alla Kadysh, a Russian-language radio and podcast host in Toronto who signed the letter.

“It’s been going on for years; it’s basically lies and projections,” Kadysh said of RTR Planeta, whose recent broadcasts have not been seen by the Star. “It’s basically hate-mongering. It’s got to the point where you can’t watch it three or four minutes, you’d go crazy.”

Earlier this week, Canadian television operators announced they were removingRT, the English channel, from their channel listings. That state-backed English-language news network has been accused by analysts of spreading disinformation meant to undermine democracies around the world.

But RTR Planeta and Channel One Russia are still carried by Rogers and Bell, according to the Canadian companies’ websites. (Neither Bell nor Rogers answered requests for comment.)

Critics of the channels say RTR Planeta is particularly sinister. Kadysh said she concerned it is radicalizing its viewers, as presenters frequently call Ukrainians “Nazis” and report false news about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She fears it is stoking hatred that may lead to violence here in Canada as the war continues.

She said many in the Russian community have bought into the rhetoric.

“I talk to people like this every single day,” Kadysh said. “They don’t believe anything you say because they are already conditioned to believe only Russian propaganda. You talk to these people and there’s something wrong with them.”

RTR Planeta’s signal hasn’t been available since last week due to an unknown reason; a message on the screen blames technical difficulties. The channel’s website has also been down.

The Star has made attempts to speak to the channel’s representatives, but has not been successful.

Marcus Kolga, a disinformation expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, shares Kadysh’s concerns. Often Russian news programming has engaged in a nationalistic stance meant to keep Russians abroad loyal, and uses distorted news as part of the approach, he said, adding that the channels are a major source for news.

“The shows that they have on there are using extremely inflammatory language to describe the Ukrainians today,” Kolga said, referring to RTR Planeta. “They’re calling them dogs, dogs that need to be put down, this is the kind of language you hear where governments and organizations are about to engage in genocide.”

Last week, the Star asked The Department of Canadian Heritage if it planned to address the concerns about RTR Planeta and was told in response that the government was requesting that the CRTC investigate RT, the English and French channels removed by Canadian satellite-TV providers earlier this week.

“We will continue to listen and be led by affected communities,” wrote David Larose of Canadian Heritage media relations. He pointed out the CRTC has said in a statement about its preliminary view of RT that the channel’s programming “may not be consistent with the Commission’s broadcasting regulations, in particular, the abusive comment provisions.”

The Star pointed out the question was about RTR Planeta, the Russian-language channel, and got no response. Some countries have already taken the step of banning RTR Planeta.

Last week, Lithuania banned the broadcaster along with a number of other Russian stations. A majority of the country’s population speaks Russian, causing the government concern.

Lithuania’s ambassador to Canada, Darius Skusevicius, told the Star the Lithuanian government didn’t want the country subjected to the “lies” of Russian television.

“We don’t want our population to get poisoned,” Skusevicius said. “Simple.”

He said during the invasion the network has reported the Russian military is being welcomed with open arms in Ukraine, even as the country maintains a ferocious resistance to Moscow’s troops.

“It’s just unacceptable, it’s a continuation of the glorification of Putin,” he said of the programming.

Meanwhile on Friday, Russia passed a draft law threatening 15 years in prison for those publishing information counter to Moscow’s version of events in Ukraine.

State media in Russia refers to its attack on Ukraine as a “special military operation” instead of calling it a “war” or “invasion.” Moscow also blocked Twitter and Facebook from Russian internet.

The move was no surprise to Kolga, who pointed out Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been working to silence dissent against his rule in the country for years.

Kolga not only wants the network removed from the airwaves, but said Canada needs to apply sanctions to dissuade people from participating in it. He said it’s not a matter of free speech, but one of national security.

Source: Russian-language propaganda stations spread hate in Canada for Ukrainians, say critics

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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