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Russian Speakers Hungry For Facts

Shahida Tulaganova, producer of RFE/RL's Russian language news program "Current Time."
Shahida Tulaganova, producer of RFE/RL's Russian language news program "Current Time."

Journalist Shahida Tulaganova was never big on compromises.

Not when she moved to the UK from her native Uzbekistan, one of the most repressive societies in the world, ruled by a regime with which Tulaganova describes her relationship flatly:

“I didn’t like them and they didn’t like me, so it was time to go.”

Neither was compromise an option when she began working as an investigative reporter for the BBC’s Uzbek Service. In addition to presenting news and current affairs for the radio, she produced hard-hitting documentaries that took her from the mountainous Afghan-Tajik border to investigate opium smuggling, to the dodgy backstreets of European capitals to secretly film the underground trade in fake passports.

Her latest assignment is as executive producer and anchor for "Current Time," or "Nastoyashchee Vremya," a daily Russian-language TV news program produced by RFE/RL to provide audiences in countries bordering Russia with a balanced alternative to the disinformation that is flooding the airwaves.

Russia’s state media’s propaganda campaign, critics charge, has been instrumental in advancing its objectives in Ukraine and driving instability in the region.

Produced in cooperation with Voice of America (VOA), “Current Time” is broadcast every day to partner television stations in Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The program draws on a network of regional and international reporters to present a 30-minute mix of live news coverage, interviews, original features, and political satire that is not otherwise available to most Russian speakers in these countries.

Don’t Try To Fight Them

Russia’s use of propaganda, and efforts by other media to counter it, is often described as an “information war,” a concept Tulaganova rejects.

“Russian propaganda is propaganda full stop--the whole machine is amazing. But do I care? To be perfectly honest, I don’t, because you cannot beat the machine,” Tulaganova said.

“What they do works. They’ve brainwashed the Russian market and now they’re brainwashing the foreign market. But you don’t try to fight them, because it’s pointless. What you do is go back to the basics of proper journalism--fact-based analysis.”

Tulaganova is convinced that even without the massive budgets of official Russian outlets like RT, formerly Russia Today, “Current Time” can produce quality investigative reports about issues that directly affect people’s lives. There is a hunger for such reporting in the Russian-speaking market, and Tulaganova is determined to respond to it.

“It’s like if there is a restaurant with a beautiful interior but the food is crap,” Tulaganova said, by way of analogy. “Are you going to eat there? No way. You go to the run-down place with the great food. With news it’s the same scenario.”

--Emily Thompson