A TV presenter working for a Kremlin-funded channel who spoke out against what she called Russia's military invasion in Ukraine live on air has been sent by the broadcaster to Crimea to "better her knowledge" of the situation.
Russia Today presenter slams home team
Kremlin-funded Russia Today TV presenter Abby Martin speaks out on-air at Russia's military occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsular.
In an off-message tirade, Abby Martin, a Washington-based American news anchor for Russia Today, shocked mostly pro-Russian viewers by announcing she "cannot stress enough" how strongly she felt about presence of its troops in Crimea, saying "Russia was wrong".
The host addressed the camera in unscripted remarks at the end of the station's Breaking the Set segment, saying: "Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs.
"I will not sit here and apologise or defend military aggression," she went on.
The English-language Russia Today is widely perceived as the voice of the Kremlin, with Reporters Without Borders describing it as a "step of the state to control information."
It is often anti-American in its coverage and has been accused of ignoring a number of human rights abuses in the country, as well as controversial issues such as the prison sentences given to punk band Pussy Riot.
Her bold statement contrasted with the station's usual coverage of the Ukrainian crisis, which broadly reflects Moscow’s position.
In its reports it has described new Ukranian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk as "self-imposed" and is sympathetic to the Russian-backed ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.
Martin, who has previously labelled the US government's version of 9/11 as "propaganda", criticised the coverage of the escalating crisis from all sides of the media spectrum as "disappointing ... and rife with misinformation".
Later in the 75-second clip, however, she admitted gaps in her knowledge, saying; “I don’t know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region, but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer."
RT management told Channel 4 that Martin had been "misled by American mainstream media".
However, in Russia Today's official statement released on Tuesday afternoon it said: "Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn’t beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby’s commentary on the Ukraine.
"We respect her views, and the views of all our journalists, presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands made against Ms. Martin.
"In her comment Ms Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such we’ll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story."
Martin however told the Telegraph: "I am not going to Crimea despite the statement RT has made."
The Telegraph, London