Exclusive - Sara Firth Extended Interview

  • Aired:  07/29/14
  •  | Views: 7,071

Former RT correspondent Sara Firth describes the lack of objective reporting and persistent interference by the Russian government that led her to quit the publication. (7:00)

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT SPENT FIVEYEARS AS A CORRESPONDENT FOR RT,

RUSSIA TODAY.

PLEASE WELCOME SARA FIRTH.

HELLO.

NICE TO SEE YOU.

[APPLAUSE]THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

SO, SO YOU WORKED, YOU JUSTRECENTLY LEFT THIS... IT'S

CALLED RT, RUSSIA TODAY.

>> YES.

>> Jon: YOU HAD BEEN THEREFIVE YEARS.

>> I HAD, YES.

>> Jon: WHY DID YOU JUST LEAVE?

>> IT HAD BEEN A REALLY LONGTIME COMING.

BUT, WE'D BEEN COVERING SOME BIGSTORIES, WHAT I THOUGHT WAS A

COMPLETELY WRONG WAY, AND I'DSEEN IT HAPPENING FROM THE

INSIDE, AND I COULD SEE ITHAPPENING AGAIN WITH THE MH17

COVERAGE, SO I CALLED TIME ONIT.

>> Jon: AND YOU LEFT.

YOUR FEELING OF THE WRONG WAY,YOU FELT THAT THE KREMLIN WAS

INTERFERING TO THE EXTENT THATYOU NO LONGER FELT THAT YOU HAD

THE INDEPENDENCE?

>> YES.

I THINK WHAT RT DOES IS IT VERYMUCH MIRRORS THE KREMLIN LINE,

SO, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER THEY'REPUTTING OUT, WE'RE KIND OF THE

SHIELDS FOR THOSELIES BASICALLY.

>> Jon: BUT THEY HAVE SOME, SOMEREALLY TALENTED PEOPLE THERE.

I MEAN, YOU GET INTO AMAZINGPLACES, YOUR COVERAGE IN

PARTICULAR GOING INTO SYRIA.

THEY'VE GOT SOME REALLY BRAVE...

ARE THEY ALL OF THE SAME MINDTHAT YOU ARE, THAT RUSSIA IS

INFLUENCING THIS TOO GREATLY?

>> I THINK IT'S REALLY DIFFICULTBECAUSE A LOT OF THE TEAM THERE,

AND I LOVED WORKING WITH THATTEAM.

AS YOU SAID, A LOT OF THEM AREREALLY TALENTED, AND WE ALL

REALLY BELIEVE RUSSIA SHOULDHAVE A VOICE ON THE

INTERNATIONAL STAGE AND THEYPERHAPS AREN'T ALWAYS

REPRESENTED IN THE RIGHT WAY,AND SO THAT'S SOMETHING I THINK

WE ALL BELIEVED INVERY STRONGLY.

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> AND I STILL BELIEVE IN.

BUT YOU CAN DO THAT WITHOUTMISLEADING OR PUTTING OUT

MISINFORMATION. AND, YOU KNOW,

THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCEBETWEEN PERHAPS WORKING TO AN

AGENDA OR TAKING A DIFFERENTPERSPECTIVE ON A STORY AND

OUTRIGHT LYING.

AND RT CROSSED THAT LINE MANYTIMES.

>> HOW INVOLVED IS THE KREMLIN?

LIKE, EVERY NOW AND AGAIN APHONE CALL?

ARE THERE SERIOUS DIRECT E-MAILSDIRECTLY FROM THE KREMLIN OR NO?

>> WE, I CERTAINLY NEVER SAWTHE MESSAGES COMING FROM THE

KREMLIN.>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> YOU GET THIS SORT OF... WEJOKINGLY NICKNAMED IT THE

MINISTRY OF FEAR, BUT IT'SKIND OF THE EDITORIAL BODY AT

THE HEART OF THE CHANNEL, ANDTHEY'RE THE ONE WHO KIND OF

GIVE THE DIRECTIVES. AND THOSEARE VERY MUCH IN LINE WITH WHATTHE

KREMLIN LINE IS AT THE TIME,SO YOU CAN PRETTY MUCH TRACK

WHAT RT IS SAYING TO WHAT THERUSSIAN GOVERNMENT IS SAYING,

AND, YOU KNOW, THATTHEY STICK VERY STRONGLY TO

THAT LINE, AS WELL.

>> Jon: SO IN SYRIA THEIR LINEWOULD BE, WE HAVE TO SUPPORT

ASSAD, THESE REBELS ARE BADPEOPLE.

WE WOULDN'T WANT TO HELP THEM INANY WAY.

AND MH17, IT WOULD BE, NO THISWAS UKRAINE, THERE HAS BEEN NO

EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT.

>> YEAH. ABSOLUTELY. YOU KNOW,AS I SAID AT THE TIME I

RESIGNED, THAT THE SORT OFDEFAULT SETTING ON STORIES LIKE

THAT IS THAT IT IS NOT RUSSIA'SFAULT, SO...

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> EVEN WHEN IT CLEARLYIS.

>> Jon: IT'S DIFFICULT BECAUSEIN THIS COUNTRY, TRUTH IS ALL

THAT MATTERS TO OUR NEWSNETWORKS.

[LAUGHTER]AND SO TO SEE YOU STRUGGLE WITH

THAT, IT REALLY SHOWS ME JUSTHOW DIFFERENT RUSSIA IS.

IS THAT... IT IS SOMETHING THATBECAUSE YOU STARTED, YOU KNOW,

THERE WAS A CERTAIN IDEALISM,WERE YOU SURPRISED BY IT?

BECAUSE IN THIS COUNTRY, THEUNITED STATES, THE WHITE HOUSE

PRESSURES NEWS ORGANIZATIONSCONSISTENTLY.

THERE ARE METHODS OFINTIMIDATION, MAYBE SUBTLE, THAT

THEY USE.

THERE ARE NEWS NETWORKS THATJUST PROMOTE THEIR OWN AGENDA,

AND IF TRUTH HAPPENS TO BE PARTOF IT, GEE, WHAT A NICE BONUS.

>> I KNOW, BUT JON, I THINK... ISTILL REALLY BELIEVE, AND I

THINK MAYBE THAT IS IDEALISTIC,,TOO BUT I THINK THAT'S WRONG.

AND YOU KNOW, OF COURSEI'M, YOU KNOW, YOU'VE GOT TO GET

INTO THESE THINGS WITHYOUR EYES OPEN.

IT'S NOT THAT STRAIGHTFORWARDAND THERE ARE... IT'S NOT BLACK

AND WHITE.

THERE ARE A MILLION SHADES OFGRAY WHEN IT COMES TO REALLY

COMPLEX SITUATIONS HAPPENING INTHE WORLD, BUT THERE IS STILL A

BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEENA TRUTH AND A LIFE.

I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD EVER,EVER WORK TO AN AGENDA THAT'S

COUNTER COMPLETELYTO THE TRUTH, SO...

>> Jon: RIGHT.>>PERSPECTIVE IS GREAT, AND

THE MORE PEOPLE YOU CAN HAVE OUTTHERE ON THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE

GIVING THEIR OPINIONS ANDTELLING DIFFERENT POINTS OF THE

STORY AND GETTING INTO UNDERREPORTED STORIES, THAT'S

WONDERFUL, BUT, YOU KNOW, THETRUTH IS STILL THE TRUTH, AND I

THINK YOU NEED TO REMEMBERTHAT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW,

WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM HERE.

WE'RE ALL TRYING TO GET THEFACTS OF THE SITUATION, AND I

JUST THINK SORT OF POINTINGFINGERS IN ALL DIFFERENT

DIRECTIONS AND MISLEADING.

IT CONFUSES US ALL.

AND, YOU KNOW, THE TRUTH ISHARD.

IT'S NOT AN EASY THING TO FACEUP TO A LOT OF THE TIME.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

SO YOU'RE GOING TO I GUESS LEAVETHE NEWS BUSINESS THEN.

[LAUGHTER]>> WELL...

>> Jon: IS THERE PLACE THATYOU ADMIRE?

IS THERE PLACE THAT YOU FEELLIKE IS DOING IT RIGHT?

OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE THISMENTALITY OF PROPAGANDA HAS

DISSIPATED, HAS GONE INTO ALLFACTIONS OF NEWS?

IS IT AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCETHAT MAKES YOU CYNICAL?

ARE YOU HOPEFUL?

WHAT'S YOUR...

>> IT WOULD BE SO EASY TO BECYNICAL.

>> Jon: YES.

>> BUT I'M, YOU KNOW, I'M A HUGEFAN OF NEW FORMS OF USING THE

MEDIA. I LOVE BEING ONLINEON YOUTUBE AND I OFTEN DO

MY VIDEO REPORTS ONTHERE AND TWITTER.

SO, YOU KNOW WHAT, NO, I THINKTHERE ARE A MILLION MORE WAYS

THESE DAYS WE CAN LOSE CONTEXTOF THE STORY AND WE'RE ALL

CHASING SEXY SOUND BITESAND WE'RE ALL LOOKING

FOR THAT BIG SCOOP AND TO GAINATTENTION, AND, YOU KNOW,

THERE ARE SO MANY MORE WAYS TODO THAT, BUT AT THE SAME TIME,

THERE'S ALL THESE WAYS THAT WECAN ALL BE INVOLVED AND GET THE

TRUTH OUT THERE, AS WELL.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> SO I DEFINITELY FEELOPTIMISTIC BECAUSE I THINK

PEOPLE ARE BECOMING REALLYDISCERNING.

AND THAT'S WHAT I FOUND VERYREASSURING ABOUT RT, IS THAT

A LOT OF THE TIME WE WERE VERYOPENLY BEING CALLED ON WHAT WE

WERE DOING WRONG. THAT CERTAINLYGAVE ME THE ENCOURAGEMENT...

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> AND, YOU KNOW, THE ABILITY TO

LOOK AT THAT AND SAY THAT, YEAH,IT WAS WRONG.

SO I THINK...

>> Jon: WELL LISTEN, I'M VERYIMPRESSED WITH THE SPIRIT OF

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING.

AND IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT I'MSOON GOING TO BE ACQUIRING A

NEWS NETWORK.

[LAUGHTER][CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

I RECENTLY SET OUT THE MONEYFOR IT, AND I WILL BE LOOKING

FOR SOME PEOPLE.

I LIKE THE CUT OF YOUR JIB.

I LIKE THE OPTIMISM THAT YOUEXPRESS.

I'D HATE TO RUIN YOU BY PUTTINGYOU AT CNN, BUT STILL...

[LAUGHTER]WHAT DO YOU THINK?

ARE YOU IN?

>> I'LL PUT $5 TOWARD THATPROJECT.

>> Jon: YOU'RE ALL RIGHT.

SARA FIRTH.

GOOD LUCK IN THE FUTURE ANDCONTINUE THE GOOD REPORTING.

IF YOU GET A CHANCE, SHE'S FILEDSOME TREMENDOUS REPORTS FROM

SYRIA AND AROUND THE WORLD.

AND I WISH YOU THE BEST.

I HOPE THAT IT WORKS OUT.

SARA FIRTH, EVERYBODY.

[APPLAUSE]

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