"The Russians are ridiculing not only EANA, but also all its members in the international arena," Wojciech Surmacz, president of the Polish Press Agency (PAP) said.
The Russian state news agency TASS is misleading partners from the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) and disregarding their decision to suspend it from the organisation.
“The Russians are ridiculing not only EANA, but also all its members in the international arena,” Wojciech Surmacz, president of the Polish Press Agency (PAP) said.
At the end of February 2022, right after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Surmacz called for the removal of the TASS agency from EANA and for an active fight against Russian disinformation. The vote to exclude TASS took place in May last year at the EANA Extraordinary Assembly in Sarajevo, specially convened for this purpose.
Before the vote, Mikhail Gusman, the first deputy director general of TASS for 23 years, was invited by the EANA management board to deliver a defence speech.
In his statement, Gusman argued that TASS is a credible, professional and independent agency that is not and has not been politically involved. The Russian officially – in the presence of 26 representatives of agencies associated in the European Alliance of News Agencies – referred to, among others: talks with the ambassadors of the USA, Poland and Germany in Moscow, who, as Gusman assured the EANA management board, had no objections to the credibility of the information provided by TASS.
As a result, it was not possible to gather the majority needed to remove the Russians from the organisation. Ultimately, TASS was only suspended from being a member of EANA.
Following this event, PAP checked Mikhail Gusman’s speech in detail, including: as regards his conversations with US, Polish and German diplomats in Moscow.
“Ambassador (John J.) Sullivan has never commented publicly on the impartiality or objectivity of TASS,” said Julie Palmer, spokeswoman and deputy public affairs adviser at the US Embassy in Moscow, in response to questions about whether Gusman was right to use the ambassador’s authority when arguing on his agency’s impartiality in Sarajevo
“Mr. Gusman and no one else from TASS contacted me on this or any other matter. RU (Russian – PAP) fake news,” Krzysztof Krajewski, the Polish ambassador to the Russian Federation, commented the words of the Russian agency’s head in a statement.
The German embassy in Moscow has not confirmed the credibility of Gusman’s reports either. To this day, it has not responded to questions asked by PAP. Since TASS’s membership has been suspended, it has no right to participate in EANA meetings, conferences or the General Assembly, nor can it be represented in the elected bodies of the Alliance. However, according to Ukrinform’s Tuesday reports, the Russian TASS ignores the suspension and boasts that it still plays an active role in the work of EANA.
According to the tass.com online news service: “TASS plays an active role in the work of major global and regional media associations, being a member of the World Media Summit (WMS), News Agencies World Congress (NAWC), European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) and Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA).”
“I really don’t know what to think about all this. Perhaps the TASS agency, despite its suspension, actually still plays an active role in the work of EANA? Maybe that is why it has not been excluded from this organisation and it is not known whether this will happen at all? One thing is certain, the Russians ridicule not only EANA, but also all its members in the international arena,” Surmacz said.
The General Assembly EANA, to be held on Thursday in Paris, will vote for the second time on the expulsion of the Russian state news agency TASS from the organisation. This time, the application for the expulsion of TASS was submitted by the Ukrainian agency Ukrinform.
The issue of putting TASS’s membership to the vote again has been included in the agenda of the upcoming General Assembly at the request of the Ukrinform agency. According to Ukrinform, the continued membership of the Russian state agency in the Alliance is inconsistent with EANA’s statute, its goals and values.
According to EANA’s statute, the exclusion of one of its members from the Alliance, requires support of a qualified majority of three-quarters of the agencies present at the General Assembly. EANA brings together 32 European agencies, including the Polish Press Agency.
“The number of votes cast at the General Assembly (this Thursday) will show the level of readiness of leading European news agencies, members of the Alliance, to take a strong position against the propaganda and disinformation produced on a massive scale by Russia, which, after more than a year and a half of full-scale invasion, has got rid of all independent media and ultimately uses the remaining ones as a weapon,” Ukrinform Director General Oleksandr Kharchenko said on Tuesday.
Ukrinform wrote on Tuesday that Sergei Mikhailov, who was TASS’s director general at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had sanctions imposed upon him by the European Union in April 2022 for “his key role in the activities of Russia’s largest news agency, which systematically spreads the Kremlin’s false narrative about the situation in Ukraine” through an extensive network of foreign offices.
The Ukrainian agency also said that from July 2023, TASS will be headed by Andrei Kondrashov, previously responsible for the information policy of the leading Russian television channels: Rossiya-1, Rossiya-24 and RTR Planeta, and earlier, in June 2023, Kondrashov was also subject to EU sanctions because he was responsible for the activities of the state-owned Russian holding WGTRK, which owns the channels in question, and “as the first deputy director general responsible for political information and broadcasting, he has a direct influence on the way WGTRK informs the public about Russia’s war against Ukraine.
In July 2022, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia blocked access to the PAP website as part of war censorship. This way, PAP became the first press agency in the European Union to be blocked in Russia. For several months now, the Polish Press Agency has been the target of increasingly stronger, massive attacks by Russian hackers, whose aim is to completely paralyse the PAP Daily Information Service.