Reuters employees raise alarm over partnership with Russian intelligence service

“It was embarrassing when the partnership was signed two years ago,” a Reuters reporter told POLITICO. “Now it’s just wrong, and the silence from above is worrying and maybe the worst.”

According to two Reuters journalists who spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about internal affairs, some senior officials have asked for answers as to why Reuters continues to distribute Tass through its business-to-business service Reuters Connect allows news organizations that pay for the wire service to access and share Tass content.

Reuters officials have specifically expressed concern over Tass’s uncritical reporting of Russian government information that critics and media pundits describe as propaganda.

The Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank, reported that Tass parroted claims by the Russian government that Ukrainians killed civilians in the Donbass region and dumped their bodies in mass graves, a claim it is news organizations and Experts say is wrong. Tass also reported that Ukrainian forces fired on Russians during a ceasefire and that neo-Nazis used Ukrainian civilians as “human shields.” a claim the New York Times said “helped create an alternate reality.”

The news agency’s connections to the Russian government were not always purely journalistic either. Both The daily beast and the Washington Post previously reported that US law enforcement officials believed Tass was working with Russian foreign intelligence to attempt to gather sensitive market and financial information from New York City.

As of Sunday, Reuters still listed Tass advertises Reuters Connect as one of its partners on its website.

When asked for comment on the agreement with Tass, Reuters downplayed its ties to the Russian company, stressing that the Reuters newsroom “operates independently of any Reuters Connect arrangement.”

“Reuters Connect is a business-to-business marketplace that provides access to Reuters news content and content from more than 90 third-party providers, including TASS,” a spokesman said. “The Connect platform allows users – typically other news outlets – to see content, including videos, images and graphics, from around the world. All third-party content is clearly identified and accompanied by a disclaimer stating that Reuters ‘does not guarantee the accuracy of this content or endorse any view or opinion expressed therein.’”

When the distribution agreement was originally announced, Reuters leadership gave an enthusiastic response. According to a press release announcing the deal in 2020, the partnership with TASS should “give media customers access to breaking news and exclusive videos from TASS; Videos about the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as feature videos and general news.”

“I am pleased that TASS and Reuters are building on our valued partnership by having TASS join Reuters Connect,” Reuters President Michael Friedenberg said in a statement at the time. “Your inclusion demonstrates our ongoing commitment to delivering value to Reuters Connect customers. Alongside the tremendous power of Reuters’ own world-class newsroom, we continue to provide our clients with content of unrivaled breadth and depth.”

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the partnership between Reuters and Tass has caught the attention of some outside observers and critics.

“Why exactly should we trust @Reuters? They are affiliated with Russia’s TASS,” said former CIA official, entertainment consultant and Twitter personality John Sipher tweeted earlier this month.

At least one other news organization with ties to Tass has taken a different approach. Earlier this month, Getty Images ended its relationship with Tass for violating the photo service’s editorial policies, stating that it plans to remove all Tass content once their current agreement expires.

“We have been closely monitoring the Russian state news agency Tass since Russia invaded Ukraine.” a spokesman for Getty Images told Forbes. “To ensure the integrity of the content we distribute, we require partners and contributors to adhere to it.” Reuters employees raise alarm over partnership with Russian intelligence service

Fry Electronics Team

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