In a statement released on February 13, the RT (formally Russia Today) group categorically denied working to hinder Emmanuel Macron’s presidential candidacy by spreading false information, or trying to disrupt the election. In an article posted on their French language website, the network said:
“RT categorically rejects all allegations that our channel would participate in the disclosure of false information in general and concerning the person of Emmanuel Macron or the presidential election to come to France. Moreover, we are dismayed that such unfounded attacks are launched on a daily basis. Indeed, it seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at RT without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this ‘fake news’ label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavourable.”
The comments came after Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! party, told France 2 television that Russia Today and Sputnik, Russian state-controlled media, had spread “fake news” with the aim of swinging public opinion against Macron. He said Macron was a target due to his pro-Europe policies.
“It is clear that the far-right and the right and their candidates are rather well regarded (in Russia) while we call for a strong Europe, a powerful Europe. It is obvious, objectively, that a certain number of Russian media clearly don’t want that,” he said.
The comments marked the first direct accusation from a French political party that forces in Russia were trying to influence the outcome of the May election.
France’s security services fear an attack
France’s Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) has in recent days again warned about the possibility of a Russian attack on the French election, saying “The level of alert is such that a defense council will be held at the Elysée on this subject.”
According to the DGSE, Russia intends to support the candidacy of Marine Le Pen “on social networks through web robots that will generate positive messages by the thousands. Or by revealing confidential data and messages of her opponents.” Contacted by RTL.fr , vice president of the National Front Florian Philippot said he would rely on “the state to secure the presidential election.
RT hiring new staff
According to job advertisements seen by BuzzFeed News on Friday, the Kremlin-backed station RT is hiring extra French-language staff with a requirement that they must start as soon as possible.
“What is special about this hiring process is the media company itself: it’s a controversial company which will continue being controversial over the next few months,” said an email from a recruiting agency trying to fill a job on RT’s French-language website. “Which means I need to find someone who won’t back down under pressure and will be able to endorse a controversial editorial policy. That being said, the project will be fascinating.”