Russian state TV reporters know they are lying to viewers and are starting to question their life choices, report says

Russian state TV reporters know they are lying to viewers and are starting to question their life choices, report says
Marina Ovsyannikova interrupts a Russian-state TV Channel One broadcast on March 14, 2022, with a sign protesting the war in Ukraine.Insider screenshot
  • Russian journalists spoke to independent outlet Meduza about state propaganda and Ukraine.
  • Many know they are being made to parrot lies about the conflict.

Journalists working at Russian state TV news outlets are uneasy about promoting Kremlin propaganda on the war in Ukraine, but fear the consequences if they rebel, according to a report.

Speaking to Meduza, unnamed sources described the mood inside official outlets where reporters repeat Russian propaganda on the invasion of Ukraine while knowing it to be untrue.

Russian outlets are required by law to refer to the invasion as a "special military operation" rather than a war, and repeat false Kremlin claims that no civilians are being harmed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Meduza is run from neighboring Latvia, meaning it is not subject to the same restrictions.

Its report came after Marina Ovsyannikova, a producer at Russia's Channel One, interrupted a live broadcast on Monday by running onto set with a sign saying "no war" and "they are lying to you here."


From the beginning of the war, "all the staff at Channel One have been on edge," a source with close ties to the network told Meduza.

"Everyone, without exception, knows that they're lying. Right there in the studio, they've got monitors showing reports from Reuters and AP, while they're getting guidelines and scripted stories from higher up that are utterly divorced from reality," the source said.

Reuters and AP are western outlets giving accurate information on the attack that isn't altered to fit Russia's narrative.

A source told Meduza that Ovsyannikova's protest did not overtly change much at Channel One and that "people are working, and there have been no new instructions from above."

Another source, with connections at two other major state-owned outlets, told Meduza that well-informed journalists were desperately trying to exempt their relatives from military service in Ukraine, even while giving a picture steady Russia success to viewers.


The duplicity was causing "huge psychological trauma" for the journalists, the source said.

Elena Afanasyeva, who Meduza said worked as a Channel One manager until last year, told the outlet that many staff "can't leave or are afraid to leave because they've got kids or parents to look after, they've got mortgages, their savings are decimated, or they fear unemployment and being blacklisted."

Some, she said, genuinely believe the Kremlin line and do not want to stop.

Russia has launched a sweeping crackdown on the media and free speech in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, with using the term "war" to describe the war punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The new censorship law compelled many foreign news organisations to suspend their operations in Russia to protect staff from reprisals.

Many of the country's remaining independent news outlets have been shuttered amid government pressure, and access to the internet restricted as the Kremlin seeks to place a stranglehold on the information its citizens can access.


Ovsyannikova in a video Tuesday said she had been interrogated for 14 hours without sleep and without access to legal representation after her protest. She has been fined 30,000 rubles ($280) for holding an "unauthorized public event" and it is unclear of she will face further charges.