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TASS - 'exceptionally verified' - and Reuters

On 10 March, former correspondent Robert Kozak asked on The Baron: "How can Reuters remain in a partnership with TASS? It is owned by the government of Russia."


He was clearly referring to an agreement announced "with delight" in June 2020 by the company's then president Michael Friedenberg. It provided for Reuters to distribute TASS news and video around the world on the Connect platform alongside 17 other national agencies, and would, said Friedenberg, build upon "our valued partnership”.


At the time, TASS CEO Sergei Mikhailov, clearly also delighted at getting the Reuters imprimatur, said the choice of his agency to be included on Connect highlighted the reputation of TASS as a source of objective, reliable and "exceptionally verified news" that would be available to thousands of Reuters clients around the world.


The tie-up sparked a barrage of hostile comment. As a former correspondent and bureau chief in Moscow over 18 years from 1965 to 1991, I asked on The Baron why the company was welcoming to its bosom an agency that over years had vilified Reuters journalists in the Soviet Union as "vicious slanderers", "hired hacks of the capitalists" and the like.


In those days, TASS news was certainly "exceptionally verified" - by the Party's ideological watchdogs to ensure that it conformed to the official line.


Since Russia invaded Ukraine three weeks ago, the "exceptionally verified" TASS text and video reporting on Mr Putin's "special military operation" has, according to independent monitors and fact-checkers, been little more than a platform for the Kremlin's carefully-controlled campaign of untruths and misinformation around the conflict.


Obviously not much has changed.


Today we learn from The Baron that the US-based NewsGuard which tracks misinformation across the Internet gives the website of TASS - the acronym for the communist-era Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union which the post-communist version retained - a credibility rating of 20/100, saying it "seriously violates basic journalistic standards".


The Baron also tells us that Getty Images is ending its partnership and removing all TASS content from its platforms on the grounds that the Russian agency is spreading misinformation.


And Reuters? ■