Russia Today presenter quits on air over Ukraine

An American anchor for the Moscow-funded Russia Today television network resigned live on air Wednesday in protest at the deployment of Russia-backed forces in Ukraine.

Liz Wahl said during a broadcast that she could no longer work for the network, which she accused of “whitewashing” moves by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“My grandparents came here as refugees during the Hungarian revolution, ironically to escape the Soviet forces,” she said.

“Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.

“I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.”

Her resignation comes after another US-based RT host, Abby Martin, criticized the actions of pro-Russian military units on her show.

Reacting to the latest embarrassment, RT accused Wahl of a “self-promotional stunt” and questioned her professionalism.

“When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional,” it said.

“But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.”

Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, posted a staunch defence of the network, saying its reporters were being persecuted in a media “war” with the West.

“There was never such persecution of our journalists and the entire channel as there is now,” wrote the 33-year-old on her LiveJournal blog.

“Abby and Liz are different guys, they are not Russian.”

“Their motherland is now comparing my motherland to Nazi Germany? No, there is a real war, not in Crimea, thank God, but in the media,” Simonyan wrote.

“It is tough to be the black sheep,” she said. “Why do I continue working on the channel which alone is resisting thousands, tens of thousands of Western media by telling a different side of the story?” she asked.

“Because this is my motherland and there is no other way for me.”

Speaking to CNN, Wahl said she hesitated before deciding to make her views public.

“I feared what measures they would take against me, what retaliatory measures they would take against me,” she said, adding that she had been “contemplating quitting for a long time.”

“What’s become very clear… especially in the face of this crisis with Crimea, is that the objective of RT has been to promote the Putinist propaganda, to promote the conflict as Putin wants us to see it and to bash the US,” Wahl said.

She told The Daily Beast “it actually makes me feel sick that I worked there.”

Martin, the host of RT’s “Breaking The Set,” had announced toward the end of a broadcast that she was “strongly against” military intervention in Ukraine.

“What Russia did is wrong,” she said.

The network responded on that occasion by saying Martin “does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea” and promising to send her to the peninsula to “make up her own mind from the epicenter of the story.”

Martin later wrote on Twitter that she would not be going to Crimea.


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