August 23, 2017  |  Updated July 2, 2018

Pro-Kremlin Trolls Revolt Against Sputnik News in Romania

By Corina Rebegea

This article was originally published by CEPA.

In early August, a few pro-Russian Facebook activists began criticizing the Romanian-language division of Sputnik News. What triggered the protest was Sputnik’s invitation to a so-called pro-American journalist to comment on a domestic scandal over the allocation of special pensions for military personnel and others. Ironic as it may be—that hardline pro-Kremlin trolls were unhappy with moderate coverage by one of Russia’s main propaganda media outlets—the trolls may be on to something. In recent months, Sputnik seems to be moving more towards the mainstream media space by soliciting opinions or comments from, or merely citing, journalists, politicians and other mainstream sources. Is this part of a strategy and what does it say about the Kremlin’s disinformation tactics in Romania?

The pension article led passionate pro-Kremlin trolls to challenge Sputnik’s ability to do its job properly. They say Sputnik should not give any space for journalists or commentators who don’t embrace a pro-Kremlin stance. In fact, Sputnik paid special attention to the political controversy over pensions, with a clear bias in favor of military pensioners and a tendency to inflame anti-government opinions, mainly by stating that the Romanian government is disrespecting veterans. But this dispute is less about a new theme being utilized for propaganda purposes; rather, it seems to be part of a discreet rapprochement between Sputnik and well-known journalists or commentators whose visibility in the mainstream media could potentially amplify Sputnik’s stories—or at least make its propaganda less conspicuous, by lending Sputnik some of the credibility these sources carry.

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