News Brief

Are US Media Outlets Giving Putin Allies a Free Ride?

A conservative American news-site has been accused of giving space to a key ally of President Vladimir Putin to attack U.S. critics of Russia, without disclosing his background. It is the latest case in what media watchers and activists say has been a trend of certain Western news sites to run pieces by prominent figures from authoritarian post-Soviet states without clear explanations as to who they represent.

In an op-ed for the pro-Trump Daily Caller, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska accused elements of the American political and intelligence establishment of manipulating U.S. public opinion against Russia in the style of the movie “Wag the Dog.”

But the website identified him only as the billionaire founder of an energy company, with no mention of his close ties to Putin, or that he has been denied a visa to travel to the U.S. in the past because of concerns over allegations he has ties to organized crime. Also missing was any mention of Deripaska’s links to President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort — who has been indicted in connection with the ongoing U.S. investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.

Deripaska — who has also faced corruption allegations inside Russia — made no mention of his wider background either, focusing instead on what he called a strategy of “false public manipulation” being pursued by the American “Deep State” to undermine Russia.

The Daily Caller has been singled out before for its selective approach, after running an article by a U.S. lobbyist for the Azerbaijan government which attacked its neighbour and rival, Armenia. The author, Dan Burton, was identified only as a “former congressman.”

On social media, some said the Daily Caller was “no better” than Russian government-backed outlets like RT, adding that it ought “to register as a foreign agent.”

There’s no concern at giving space to such voices, according to media watchers, as long as their affiliations and reasons for speaking out are made clear. But the biography that The Daily Caller published for Deripaska was derided as “laughably barren” by the ThinkProgress site.