Russian media in Latin America: when invasion clashes with illusion

Russian media in Latin America: when invasion clashes with illusion

Published on 04 May 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine revives the debate on the presence of Russian media in Latin America. How are they perceived and what is their impact in Latin America?

True facts, half-truths, rumors and fake news mixed with weight loss tips, sports and show business, presented by journalists: nothing new in the media landscape of many countries, also in Latin America. But when it comes to the Russian media Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, the news offer harbors the danger of disinformation, since both are considered by experts as propaganda organs of the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, today commander of the military invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia took advantage of the realization of the 2018 FIFA World Cup to break into Latin America with its media,” Mario Morales, professor of Social Communication at the Javeriana University in Colombia, tells DW. Thus, “Moscow used an event apparently stripped of ideology, to present RT as an alternative not contaminated by political propaganda or ideological or governmental interests,” adds the analyst, who recognizes that RT has not only achieved a “degree of penetration, but also loyalty” in Latin America.

“Russian governmental media entered Latin America very easily because they have an affinity with many pro-government media that present themselves as state-owned, but which, in Latin America, end up being functional to the governments in power”, explains to DW Adriana Amado, researcher of media in Latin America, adding that “in this ambiguity coexist media that have clear propaganda intentions, with other media that comply with professional standards of information production”.

Replication of the Russian model in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba

According to María Virginia Marín, what these regimes intend is “to control the information coming out of the country, but also to filter in some way how international events are interpreted in Venezuela, such as the invasion of Ukraine”. According to ProBox, “it is Russia – and its version of events – that has the greatest reach among the population in Venezuela, thanks to trends of support in networks for Putin, promoted by the Maduro government. That support translates into disinformation distributed by VTV, the Venezuelan state channel, which justifies and minimizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying that, after all, the United States has done the same throughout its modern history.”

The dissemination of the Russian version of events is not only facilitated in countries with authoritarian regimes. “In the case of Telesur, the government of Alberto Fernandez made it available in the basic package of channels that anyone who turns on a television in Argentina receives,” Gabriel Bastidas, producer and correspondent of TV Network, a channel for the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States, Mexico, Canada and other countries, tells DW. In fact, Telesur returned to the 17-channel package of Televisión Digital Abierta (TDA), the state-owned broadcasting platform, which reaches 83% of the population, as of 2020. In 2016 it had been taken off the air by the government of Mauricio Macri.

If you want to read the full article of Deutsche Welle (DW) in Spanish click here.

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