Ruptly, a voice of Russian propaganda to international audience

The Ruptly news agency is part of the Russian state media RT. On their official website, back on 8 April 2013, they announced the launch of a global news agency with its headquarters in Berlin.

As stated on the RT website, “According to Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the purpose of RUPTLY was to break the monopoly of Western agencies and provide TV channels with an alternative agenda (which mostly Russian stance on key topics for the Kremlin). 

Many media outlets focus primarily on the ‘agency footage’ when covering news, as they cannot afford to send their correspondents to all the hot spots.” Ruptly provides and disseminates its news materials at a low price and to a broad audience. For many news media outlets, it has become a way to get footage from around the world at a cheaper price.

An important thing to notice: Ruptly is a subsidiary of the Russian state media RT, formerly Russia Today, banned in the EU for spreading disinformation.  

Looking back at its past reports, the agency has repeatedly found itself in a situation where leading news agencies criticised it for distorting the truth or disseminating inaccurate information. Such cases include:

  • In August 2020, the New York Times reported that a misleadingly edited Ruptly video showing Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, ostensibly burning a Bible, was being shared on social media with false captions by far-right figures and conservative politicians. The clip subsequently reportedly ‘went viral’. The Times said the clip “appears to be one of the first viral hits of Russian disinformation in the 2020 presidential election.” Following this incident, NBC reported that Ruptly edited a user-generated protest video with violence instead of peaceful protest highlighted.
  • In October 2017, a Ruptly-produced viral video showing an American restaurant preparing a special hamburger to celebrate Vladimir Putin’s birthday was found to be fake. Ruptly removed the video from its YouTube channel, stating that company employees, not the restaurant, were involved in its creation, adding: “Unfortunately, we have damaged the credibility of the video, and we thank our viewers for pointing out the inconsistencies in our story.”
  • In 2014, British blogger Graham Phillips was deported from Ukraine for spreading Russian propaganda and posing a threat to Ukraine’s security. In 2015, StopFake published an article alleging that Phillips worked for Ruptly, among other Russian state platforms, produced pro-Kremlin propaganda, and had links to the Russian intelligence service FSB. Graham Phillips has been put on the sanction list by Great Britain and Ukraine for supporting Russia’s war aggression.

Russia’s war and agency censorship pushed Ruptly employees to resign 

In 2022, many Ruptly employees resigned in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine after the Moscow authorities restricted its media from describing Russia’s war as an invasion. Instead, the correspondents and editors were obliged to call a ‘special military operation, as Putin called its all-out war.

According to a recording of a call obtained by Reuters, the employee complained in a call attended by all staff that he was prevented from describing the invasion as such in his editorial appeals.

If we look at the news actively spread by this agency, we can see the following: there is no mention of Russian missiles hitting civilian targets, energy infrastructure, and residential buildings in Ukraine on their website. 
On Twitter, Ruptly posts videos of the damaged buildings, but without any word of who launched the missiles or who is responsible for death and destruction, while it’s well known that these strikes are perpetrated by the Russian regime.

Pro-Russian coverage of the Kakhovka HPP explosion

Covering the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, Ruptly broadcasts the Russian narrative on the catastrophe; there is no expert analysis that the hydroelectric power station was blown up from within (meaning by Russians who controlled it).

They do make references to Ukrainian President Zelensky accusing Russia of this. Still, at the same time, they highlight the Kremlin’s position and spread their theory that the shelling of the HIMARS is to blame (video of President Putin’s statement).

No statements from influential international experts, editorial boards, politicians, etc., are published. For example, Reuters also investigated it and defended the position that the Russian troops who planted the mines and blew up the dam from the inside are actually to blame.

It is interesting to note that Ruptly also distributed a video of a conference with Belarusian President Lukashenko, who also confirmed the Kremlin’s narrative. The agency clearly stated in terms of facts that the Ukrainian military regularly shells the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, but this was only a Kremlin claim with no evidence. 

The Russian section of the agency’s official website is flooded with Putin’s face, various rallies, and similar gatherings — another sign of a pro-Putin agency.

The English section, on the other hand, is full of tragic events in the world, covering the most critical world issues and the latest developments in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Still, again, there is no mention of the destruction that Russian missiles cause to peaceful Ukrainian cities and civilians far behind the frontlines. They are mainly focused on covering negative stories in the world and reports beneficial to Russia in a positive light.

Ruptly is blocked on YouTube, but still spreads its biassed reports to local media

YouTube blocked Ruptly, as the platform pledged to block all channels linked to Russian state-funded media. 

But Ruptly, as shown above, still serves as a tool for the Kremlin to promote pro-Russian narratives in different countries. The reports produced by Ruptly correspondents with biassed information are distributed to TV channels that are subscribers of the agency. 

Thus, local media might use information from Ruptly to create their reports, and the Kremlin’s narratives end up on independent websites.

Therefore, local TV channels and digital media across the globe need to ensure the basics of information hygiene and always check the source of reports because, nowadays, the news is heavily manipulated by several totalitarian regimes with puppet news agencies in their hands.

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