MH17: Russia Today presenter Sara Firth quits over Malaysia Airlines crash coverage

Firth claimed the network showed 'total disrespect for the facts' 

Heather Saul
Friday 18 July 2014 18:06
Sara Firth, a presenter for Russia Today (RT) has resigned from her job over the broadcaster’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in Ukraine.
Sara Firth, a presenter for Russia Today (RT) has resigned from her job over the broadcaster’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in Ukraine.

A presenter for the Kremlin-backed news channel Russia Today (RT) has resigned from her job in protest over the broadcaster’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in Ukraine.

Sara Firth quit the post she has held at the Moscow based station for five years over what she described as their “total disrespect to the facts”, claiming on Twitter that the RT style guide rule one is: "It is ALWAYS *Ukraine's fault (*add name as applicable)”.

Firth, who was a London-based correspondent, told the Press Gazette: “It’s scary that it’s genuine RT guidance on how to do a story, and you have to believe it to succeed there. You stop believing that what they say is the way it is and you stop being useful to them.”

She described its coverage of the crash, which killed all 298 people on board, as "the straw that broke the camels back".

Her exit comes after RT anchor Liz Wahl resigned live on air in response to the station’s “whitewashed” coverage of events of the Ukraine crisis in March. The network swiftly denounced her actions as “nothing more than a self-promotional stunt”.

Explaining her decision to leave, she said: “Yesterday when the story broke you get the kick in your stomach when you’re going to get the facts and it’s this huge story.”

“And I walked into the newsroom and they were running an eye-witness account of God-knows who the person was blaming the Ukrainian government, and it is such a volatile situation.”

She added: "It’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me."

A spokesperson for the network defended their coverage of the disaster, and said: "More than 15 RT journalists are working on this story – from Moscow, from the Russian-Ukrainian border, London, Berlin, Washington. RT Spanish journalist Francisco Guaita was one of the first TV correspondents to get to the scene late last night. Our reporters are in the Netherlands and Malaysia.

"The plane crash is an absolutely terrible tragedy - there are a lot of questions that surround it and everybody is looking for answers.

"Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth. We believe that truth is what our reporters see on the ground, with their own eyes, and not what’s printed in the morning London newspaper.

RT said they were "not surprised" by Ms Firth's decision to leave RT”.

The Boeing 777-200 was reportedly shot down as it passed over Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk on Thursday, coming down near the village of Grabovo.

Nine Britons and 189 Dutch nationals were among the passengers from nearly a dozen nations who died in the incident. The nationalities of four other passengers have not yet been determined.

The UN Security Council has called for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation" into the downing of the plane.

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