RT Loves American Protests

Last week’s election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States sent shockwaves around the world. World leaders paused and considered how to react and right and radical right-wing politicians across Europe rejoiced and congratulated President-elect Trump.

Some of the more than 52% of Americans who voted for candidates other than Trump took to the streets of cities across America and global news broadcasters were there to meet them.

Coverage of the anti-Trump protests appeared on every channel studied by the Screening Protest Project (Al Jazeera English, BBC World, CCTV English, CNN International, DWTV, Euronews, and RT). RT and its sister network, Ruptly, which focuses almost exclusively on providing “raw” (un-narrated but already edited) video of protests, were both quick to cover the protests and provided hours of video online and concluded their coverage by claiming that the anti-Trump protests were overwhelmingly organized and funded by George Soros via the Open Society Foundation which also widely funds prodemocracy initiatives across the former USSR.

In the days following the elections, RT placed the anti-Trump protests prominently in their broadcasts and devoted far more airtime to the protests than any other network monitored by our project.

RT’s initial coverage of the protests included night scenes of “phobia” stricken protesters who required a police escort, burned American flags, and needed to be cordoned off from a Trump owned property. This segment, which quickly went on to explain how American media “freaked out” and how CNN supported the narrative of ISIS by mentioning the terror organization’s professed glee at Trump’s election was not only posted online by RT but was also replayed 24 hours later by the network.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Russian state has increasingly come under scrutiny for its increasing use of propaganda. The anti-Trump election protests provide a great opportunity to see RT’s spin machine in action.

Jacob Sommer

Jakarta Protests Diversify Our Data

Chaotic scenes of violence were at the forefront of Euronews’ reporting on the protests.

Late last week, protests by opponents of Indonesia’s leading non-Muslim politician, Jakarta’s Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, took place in that country’s capital and received considerable coverage in the international media. The event gave researchers at the Screening Protest Project a chance to see how different networks represented a protest in a country that often doesn’t make it into the headlines of English-language global news broadcasters.

Al Jazeera English, CCTV News, Euronews (English) and even Turkey’s new global news channel, TRT World, reported on the event. The reports varied greatly in their style, length, imagery, and framing of the protest with arguably none of the channels doing a terribly good job of contextualizing the protest within the broader theme of ongoing internal instability within the world’s most populous Muslim country.

TRT World’s coverage included a live interview with its correspondent in Jakarta who pointed out that the governor remained popular amongst residents of the city after having focused on “real issues” during his term in office and that many of the populist “Islamic-right” protesters had traveled to the capital from other parts of Indonesia.

CCTV’s 40 seconds of coverage reported that the protesters “had used references from the Koran to attack [the governor],” while neglecting to mention the governor’s Chinese heritage.

Al Jazeera English’s correspondent interviewed the governor and highlighted the macro-social conditions of rising anti-Chinese and anti-Christian sentiment during the build up to the protest. Later coverage by the network reported on how a “peaceful protest” had turned violent after protesters from mainly conservative and radical groups had begun attacking cars and looting.

Finally, Euronews (English) began its report with the loud noise of an explosion and scenes of “violent clashes” before briefly elaborating on the cause of the protests and their progression across the city.

Researchers at the Screening Protest Project are always keen to explore the variations in reports on protests that take place in countries that often don’t make it into the headlines. Indonesia is a culturally heterogeneous country of over 250 million people that has long been a challenging country to cover for journalists. These reports, from a growing number of global news broadcasters add diversify to our project’s data and make analysis of outlier cases possible.

Jacob Sommer