James Kirchick, a writer who has contributed to a variety of news organizations, recently appeared on the RT network (aka Russia Today). The panel discussion was supposed to be about Bradley Manning, but Kirchick took the opportunity to challenge the station itself and the Russian government over the infamous law "against promoting homosexuality to minors."
"Well, Harvey Fierstein is a very famous American playright and actor. He said that 'being silent in the face of evil is something that we can't do.' And, you know, being here on the Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I'm going to wear my gay pride suspenders. I'm going to speak out against the horrific, anti-gay legislation that Vladimir Putin has signed into law; that was passed unanimously by the Russian duma; that criminalizes homosexual propaganda. It effectively makes it illegal to talk about homosexuality in public....
''I'm not really interested in talking about Bradley Manning right now. I'm interested in talking about the horrific environment of homophobia in Russia right now. And to let the Russian gay people know they have friends and allies in solidarity from people all over the world. And that we're not going to be silent in the face of this horrific repression that is perpetrated by your paymasters, by Vladimir Putin....
"And as a journalist, I don't know how you can go to sleep at night seeing what happens to journalists in Russia who are routiney harrassed, tortured and in some cases killed by the Russian government.... I find that abomidable, and you should be ashamed of yourself.... You should cover what's happening in Russia. You should cover the horrific abuse --.
"You have 24 hours a day to lie about the United States and to ignore what's happening in Russia.... RT has been Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden 24/7. I haven't seen anything on your network about the anti-gay laws that have been passed in Russia, and the increasing climate of violence and hostility towards gay people. Where is the coverage of that? ... They can't make these comments on Russian television. They can't write these things in Russian newspapers. They can't hold a demonstration in Russian squares."
In return, one panelist pointed out that station had aired a discussion about the law. The channel's videos on YouTube include several reports about the Sochi Olympics in which calls for a boycott against the Sochi Olympics are harshly criticized as counterproductive. One host said it was a "cliché ... calling this an anti-gay law across Russia. It is actually an amendment preventing gay propaganda to minors." Several comments made in the videos attempted to deflect the focus on Russia by calling out other countries that prohibit gay rights, and specificially referring to Section 28, an anti-gay law that existed in the U.K. until 2003.
A perception of antagonism against LGBT issues may be at odds with the network's reports of years past. Former news hosts, like Alyona Minkovski and Lauren Lyster, regularly expressed their support for gay issues and decried discrimination against the LGBT community. Today Thom Hartmann, a politically progressive and gay-supportive broadcaster, continues to have a late-night broadcast on RT America, as does interviewer Larry King.
Last Monday, an openly gay RT correspondent, Martyn Andrews, insisted that after 8 years in Russia he had not been penalized in anyway for his opinions. He also insisted that, in Russian culture, what is put into law does not necessarily trickle down to become societal practices. He did say the amendment was wrong. On Twitter, Andrews asked:
"Olympic Boycott Urged Over Russia Gay Rights??? Why then open a huge new gay club in Moscow? Mmmm."
RT's talking points about the controversial law, the Sochi Olympics, and Russian beliefs can be found under "Gay rights in Russia: Facts and Myths."