The Russian state-controlled energy company Gazprom wants to be known in Europe as a serious business partner capable of providing a stable supply of gas.
But back home in Russia, the gas giant plays a different role.
Here, Gazprom owns the nationwide network NTV, which conducts systematic media attacks on diplomats representing the European countries, alongside Russian civil society activists.
A smear documentary broadcast by NTV on 8 November manipulated Russian audiences to see conspiracies against their country in contacts between foreign diplomats and Russian civil society activists.
The report centered around an event in Moscow, which NTV tried to give an air of secrecy by incorrectly calling it “unannounced”.
International programmes allowing Russian journalists and activists to study abroad were presented as initiatives for “Western influence agents” promoting “anti-Russian” activities aiming a “destabilising Russia”.
Russian human rights defenders were accused by NTV of betraying their country; European and American diplomats were presented as their “curators”.
Footage from inside the event was mixed with footage showing diplomats leaving it and being aggressively approached by NTV employees. The authors of the reportage also mentioned the countries of origin and the names of individual diplomats.
An emblem of manipulations
NTV has become an emblem of such manipulative media attacks.
In January 2018, the channel conducted a similar attack on European and US diplomats and Russian human rights defenders with use of misleading information.
NTV has conducted covert operations in order to obtain video and audio recordings and expose named individuals at closed meetings as well as in private, in some cases even in intimate situations.
NTV’s manipulations of Russian audiences have even gone as far as to hiring an actor to pretend to be a citizen in a news report.
Gazprom’s TV channel is also on the radar of the UK’s broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, which earlier this year found NTV in “serious failure of compliance with impartiality rules”.
Doing dirty jobs for the Kremlin
Gazprom’s willingness to do dirty media jobs for the Kremlin became particularly evident in 2012. In a production which is now seen as classical for its ruthlessness, “The Anatomy of Protest”, the targets of manipulations and secret recordings were Russian opposition activists.
The direct tie between the Kremlin and NTV’s editorial line is well known: Russian journalists have described how NTV executives attend weekly meetings, during which the Kremlin hands out instructions for the media narrative.
NTV does not shy away from having a correspondent permanently working in Brussels with a press accreditation at the EU institutions.