Ddifficult to speak for Zhanna Agalakova, who presents herself as a woman of the perestroika generation who believed in the new free press irrigating Russia in the early 1990s. The journalist, who had worked since 1999 for the first Russian channel Pervi Kanal, where she notably presented the evening news (interrupted last week by producer Marina Ovsiannikova), resigned on March 3 from her post as correspondent in Paris, a few days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.
“I thought I would escape Russian propaganda by covering French life. It was an ostrich position, an escape. Most Russian journalists are against propaganda, but they are trapped. They have a job and a family to feed,” she tried to explain on Tuesday during a press conference at the offices of Reporters Without Borders. “In recent years, the Russian press has tried to survive. But, in our news, we don’t show the worst. When people don’t see their reflection in the news, they don’t know who to talk to, their voices are inaudible. We are going straight towards a collective suicide of the Russians, ”she worries.
I then became an echelon of propaganda. I had to deal only with subjects unfavorable to the United States.
Surreal moments in Milan
When Russia launched its offensive on Ukraine on February 24, Zhanna Agalakova covered Italian Fashion Week with her cameraman husband, who also worked for the Pervi Kanal channel. “I immediately called the editorial staff in Moscow and asked them if we were continuing to shoot. They answered “yes”. So we continued to cover Fashion Week during the day, while watching what was happening in Ukraine at night,” she says. For her, it is out of the question to continue as it is. “It was not possible for me to forget what Moscow calls Ukraine’s ‘pacification operation’. This is war, it must be said clearly. A few days later, she announced her resignation from Paris in Moscow, returned the equipment and her official apartment. It was then that she really realized the compromises made during her career.
“At the start of Putin’s second term, in 2004, the media already felt this heavy pressure coming down,” recalls the one who officiated at the time at the JT. Zhanna Agalakova then realizes that only the first man in Russia is shown on television. We explain what he ate, who he shook hands with, we show him shirtless without knowing anything about his private life. The journalist asks for her transfer to Paris. “The first years were great. I was talking about the 2005 presidential election, the riots in the suburbs, foie gras…”
In 2013, she moved to New York. Then came the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. “I then became a propaganda pawn. I had to deal only with subjects unfavorable to the United States, such as the abuse of adopted children. I have never lied in my reports. But propaganda works like this: you take real facts, mix them up and get a big lie. If you only take a point of view, it does not give the whole truth. This is what happens in the Russian media: they transmit only one point of view. However, we have a huge elephant that we cannot avoid seeing and which bears the name of war. »
European sanctions mainly affect the Russian middle class and people who have always shared democratic values.
When Zhanna Agalakova is asked why the majority of Russians still seem to support Vladimir Putin, the ex-journalist from Pervi Kanal replies: “Power has played on an extremely sensitive chord for citizens. It is the specter of World War III. Yet Russia mourned 27 million victims during the Second World War and repeatedly experienced poverty. His criticisms do not spare Europe, however. “The West has covered Russia with sanctions like a carpet,” she continues. European sanctions mainly affect the Russian middle class and people who have always shared democratic values. In this story, you lose your allies. Yes, we know who is responsible for this situation, but the West also has its share of responsibility. »
Today, the Kirov-born woman presents herself as a “private citizen, not a politician”. “In Russia, I will be accused of being a spy and of having been heavily paid to make this statement. However, I don’t work for anyone”, she says, before recalling in Russian that, according to her, “the free press is essential to any society”. But how to “dezombify the Russian media”? we inquire. “I am not in politics, I have two hypotheses: either the Russian power stops its action, or the Russian people become aware of it themselves. »
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