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The Real Threat Is ‘Telling The Truth’: Abby Martin Responds To Accusations Of Influencing Election 2016

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

Originally published at MintPress News

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, journalist Abby Martin dismissed accusations that she colluded with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Martin is the latest independent journalist to fall victim to a new “Red Scare” that seeks to shift the blame for the Democratic Party’s political problems onto Russia.

On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a declassified version of “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution,” a report which purports to document Russia’s alleged interference in the election.

Despite the report’s technical-sounding title, a sizable portion of the document is concerned not with cyber attacks, but with unfavorable coverage of the U.S. government and American politics broadcast on RT, the Russian state-owned news network that has been a target of repeated U.S. government threats. The report specifically highlights Martin’s show, “Breaking the Set,” which ran on RT from September of 2012 until February of 2015, and another RT program called “Truthseeker” for being “overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.”

In Monday’s interview, Martin appeared alongside Anya Parampil, a host at RT America who worked as a producer on “Breaking the Set.” Martin defended the accuracy and importance of her work as a journalist, suggesting RT was actually targeted for critical investigative journalism that cast Washington in an unfavorable light. Martin continued:

People are suffering, that’s real. They’re telling me that these people tuning into the news and seeing, maybe, a report on their reality is what cost the election? Come on! This is insane!

She added: “What this report really is saying, Anya, is that telling the truth, reporting on issues that affect Americans and their communities, is the threat.”

A Russia Today (RT) news van covering protests in Moscow. December 10, 2011. (Wikimedia Commons / FeelSunny, CC SA)

On the same day the government report was released, The New York Times acknowledged that the document provided little evidence to support its claims. “The declassified report contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions,” wrote David Sanger, the Times’ national security correspondent.

However, the Times published a follow-up report on Saturday which focused specifically on RT. Although later corrected by the Times, the article by Russell Goldman, senior staff editor at the paper’s international desk, initially claimed that Martin had quit RT while live on the air after the Russian military began its annexation of Crimea.

While Martin did make headlines for criticizing Russia on the air in March of 2014, her program continued until the following year, when she departed to work on longer forms of investigative journalism. Her current program, “Empire Files,” which began airing on teleSUR English in August of 2015, focuses on exactly this type of long-form reporting.

On Sunday, Martin responded to the Times article in a post on Media Roots, a citizen journalism blog that she founded in 2009. She wrote:

The glaring fact is that I spoke out about the actions of Putin, Russia and RT’s coverage of it on air, and not only was I not fired, but I still had the prime time opinion show on the network for another year.

That begs the question to the NY Times: if RT is simply a Kremlin mouthpiece, how was I allowed to do this and still be featured prominently on the network?

In her Monday appearance on RT, Martin told Parampil that government propaganda targeting alternative media is especially dangerous given President-elect Donald Trump’s frequent threats against journalists and freedom of the press.

“Likening [my reporting] to treason, to being a traitor, to being un-American and unpatriotic, and when you have these words thrown around in a climate of such hysteria … I think that this is extremely, extremely dangerous rhetoric,” Martin warned.

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