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Reliable Sources

Four Journalists Have Been Killed in Ukraine This Month; How Independent Media in Ukraine is Covering the War; Effects Of Propaganda War In Russia; NewsGuard: TikTok Is Spreading Disinfo About Ukraine; Marking 30 Years Of 'Reliable Sources' On CNN. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 20, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter live in New York and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and we figure out what's reliable.

This hour, we're going live to Western Ukraine. Two top editors will tell us how they are adapting to war by finding bulletproof vests for employees, for example, and by trying to find relatives safety.

Plus, a new report says TikTok is feeding new users Russian disinformation within minutes of joining the app. An executive from NewsGuard joins us live.

And later, where were you 30 years ago this month? We are going right back to the beginning of this program.

But first, the world's eyes and ears in Ukraine are gathering news at great personal risk. So far, four journalists have been killed covering the war in Ukraine this month, others have been wounded, and there have been close calls that have gone unreported.

We also know of two Ukrainian journalists who have been reported missing in the country, including Victoria Roshchyna, a brave journalist who's been missing for more than a week. Her news outlet believes that she is being held by Russian forces.

We're going to explore what it's like in the war zone in the next few minutes. We're going to talk about the deaths and the injuries in the past week, but let's also talk about how reporters for local Ukrainian outlets are getting the news out, how they are covering -- how they have become war correspondents in a matter of days.

"The Kyiv Independent" has been acclaimed for this in the past few weeks. It's a fairly new publication. It was created just last year by former employees of another outlet called "Kyiv Post" who was fired after a deadlock with the paper's owners over editorial independence.

So, "The Kyiv Independent" was born. It's an English language media outlet. As the "U.K. Independent" said here it's gone from being a three-month-old startup and relative unknown in the Western world, to now one of the leading sources of information on the war in Ukraine.

With us now is the editor-in-chief of the "Kyiv Independent", Olga Rudenko. She's also the former editor of "The Kyiv Post". She's coming to us from an undisclosed location in Western Ukraine.

Olga, how are you doing personally as this grinds on now to a fourth week?

OLGA RUDENKO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, KYIV INDEPENDENT: I -- I always answer this question that I'm doing as good as is possible in these circumstances.

STELTER: Right. Everything is relative right now.

I mentioned two Ukrainian journalists have been reported missing. We know apparently for about a week now. Do you have any information on either of those cases?

RUDENKO: Yes, so, in fact, just about an hour ago, we got very good news that one of those reporters, Oleh Baturin, in the city of Kakhovka in southern Ukraine who was kidnapped on March 12th. He was just released by the Russians.

It's great news because for over a week, the journalism community and his friends and relatives did not know anything about his whereabouts and about whether he is alive or not. And about an hour ago, he was released.

He did put out a statement that was published by his friend on social media and it is quite worrying because he says that he was -- during this week, he was beaten, he was essentially tortured and the most worrying part is that he was told -- he says that he was told by the Russian forces who was doing this to him that this is what -- the way every journalist.

And as for --

STELTER: But thank God he's been released but that is a terrifying statement. The implication, of course, is that Russian forces are targeting journalists in the country.

Have you sense that had yourself?

RUDENKO: Well, fortunately, we've been -- we've been very lucky, none of our team have been targeted so far. We do understand that it's a risk, it's a daily risk, and we are doing what we can to be careful.

But we see that -- as you know, several journalists have already been killed in this only a month old invasion of Ukraine. And it is unfortunately not surprising that Russian forces just don't -- you know, seeing a reporter with a press patches on their helmet or the vest, I don't think that it means much for Russian forces because we have to remember that this is an invasion by an authoritarian regime that has been targeting journalists and free media consistently for decades now.


So, yes, we know that we are at risk, and we unfortunately see that our colleagues are being targeted.

STELTER: So we're hearing Oleh is released, Victoria -- her news outlet is publicizing her disappearance. It's been more than a week now.

And just for viewers at home to understand. Sometimes journalists go missing, journalists are wounded. We don't report it first until we know more.

Thankfully, you're saying your team has been safe. All the CNN teams have been safe in the country. But safety is relative.

So, what are you doing to try to protect your employees who are suddenly become war correspondents?

RUDENKO: As you mentioned earlier, we are a very young news outlet. We were only founded four months ago. And certainly, when we started, we did not expect to find ourselves in this situation, and we are -- we're learning as we go.

Fortunately, several reporters on the team have some experience reporting from the war zone in eastern Ukraine because, as you know, the Russian war against Ukraine did not start months ago. It actually started eight years ago with the invasion of the Donbas and annexation of Crimea.

So we do have some people with experience and we are putting them at the more dangerous locations like Kyiv. Today is pretty dangerous to report in and around Kyiv, and that's actually where several journalists have been killed.

And the rest of the team is currently braced mostly in Ukraine, around the country in relatively safer locations. We do not concentrate, we are in different locations so that if, you know, one of the biggest fears that Russians may cut down the Internet connection, the mobile connection, and in that case, we would not be able to work and have access to the website and publish news.

So we -- we are, you know, not concentrating in one location, we are in different places in Ukraine so if some city is targeting and somebody is hurt, then the work goes on.

And we do have some people abroad who if -- you know, if, say, Internet goes down in Ukraine and we all lose connection, they would pick up the work and they know what they were to do if that happens.

So, we are planning for that as well, but we are also telling our reporters that safety is a priority. No story is worth a human life.

STELTER: Absolutely. I was just pulling up the homepage for your website, folks who find it online, I think we can show it as well. One of the headlines this week was about whether Putin wants a nuclear war. Just the notion that you are now thrust into covering questions like this, concerns about this, I think it's very hard for people outside Ukraine to understand the shear feeling of terror that you and your colleagues and your fellow patriots must feel.

RUDENKO: It is absolutely true. As we were editing that story, you know, we just caught ourself thinking is that where we are now?


RUDENKO: That really the question that we're asking ourselves is that really something that we need to try to answer for our readers. And it's -- it is, of course -- I think it's taking a toll on everybody, on the team, and we will have to deal with it after the war psychologically, just having to -- just being thrown into this new reality where we cover these horrors every day and every hour.

STELTER: Absolutely.

Olga, thank you for your bravery. Thank you for coming on the program.

RUDENKO: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: for the local coverage.

The media is in the crosshairs in Ukraine with four reporters killed there this month and at least seven injured. We've seen two Danish journalists work for "The Daily Beast" who were injured. They were shot early on, reporting in eastern Ukraine. They have both recovered, thankfully.

We've seen video of a Sky News team ambushed, forcing Stuart Ramsay and his crew to run for cover. Stuart was shot in the back but he is now recovering.

This time last week, journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud was killed outside Kyiv, and his colleague Juan Redondo was wounded. I'm told Juan is still recovering.

Fox News is in mourning after its crew came under fire on Monday. Correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured -- very seriously injured in that attack. He has since been evacuated out of the country.

Two of his crew members were killed, including the veteran cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, as well as Sasha -- Oleksandra Kuvshynova known as Sasha.

Sasha was a young producer in the country, a Ukrainian working with Fox, trying to be a -- she was a consultant for that crew.

So, the consultant, cameraman, both killed -- the first deaths in the history of Fox News out in the field. And Benjamin Hall remains hospitalized and he has a long road of recovery ahead.

When we heard about Hall and his crew, my mind immediately went to Kimberly Dozier.


She was the CBS correspondent who was nearly killed by a car bomb when in Baghdad for CBS back in 2006.

Like Ben Hall, two of Dozier's colleagues were killed in that blast. She woke up learning that she had survived and they had not.

Kim Dozier is now a CNN global affairs analyst. She is here with us now to share her experience.

Kim, we know that the journalism world has come together to support Ben Hall and his family. Tell us about those efforts. I know there's fundraising under way, et cetera.

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the State Department Correspondents Association of which Ben is a part immediately kicked into gear with GoFundMe internally because we all started thinking what are they going to need? Okay, the family is going to be at his bedside during his recovery, they are not going to want to think about food, let's get a meal service for them.

And as that link got shared with other news outlets, the funds grew. But we all know it's a -- a lot of us over the years have been hit in different war zones. You had Cami McCormick of CBS radio hit in Afghanistan in 2009, "The AP's" Kathy Gannon and her photographer Anja Niedringhaus were hit in Afghanistan as well in 2014 and Anja was lost.

For those who end up in the hospital, it is months often of first fixing the damage and then the rehabilitation and then the next step is dealing with the aftermath of what happened, survivor's guilt if you were with your team and, like in my case, they were lost and you're still here. You are left with a lot of questions as to why did I survive and how do I make it count?

STELTER: So, what would you tell Ben? I'm sure at some point you all will speak because you are two of sadly -- thankfully, it's a rare club. It's a very sad part to be a part of, American correspondents wounded in the war zone.

What would you tell him?

DOZIER: Well, some of Ben's good friends have already reached out, people who have worked with him for years and they heard your podcast where we talked about this, and they're just trying to get him advice when he and his family are ready for it. So they're already working on having a network to support Ben through his recovery.

One of the main things I tell him is: please do not blame yourself for Pierre and Sasha being lost. I know initially you will because that's one of the ways that you take back control of this awful thing that happens. One of the steps in grief is blame, and if you are the survivor, it becomes self-blame, and survivor's built is a horrible thing. But as ABC's Bob Woodruff told me, when he was talking to me in the hospital bed as he was recovering from injury --


DOZIER: -- he knew my camera crew who was lost in 2006 in Iraq. He knew Paul Douglas and James Brolin and he said, if you blame yourself for what happened to them, you're taking away their choice, you're taking away their agency and disrespecting their memory. Give them the choice of they were there doing the job they loved that they thought was important enough to risk their lives.

STELTER: That's right. And they are all there informing the rest of us.

So when we think about that, we think about these crews, several crews have been attacked in various circumstances in Ukraine in the past few weeks. News outlets are having to make very careful choices about where to go and where not to go. So, we don't always see the front lines every day, we're not seeing all the images this have horrific war every day, but we are seeing a lot because of social media, because of amateur videos, satellite videos and photos even.

Kim, do you worry that we're going to start to see war fatigue in the United States, that people are going to get tired of seeing this over and over again?

DOZIER: Yeah, it happened in Iraq. It happened in Syria, where initially as a reporter on the ground, you're sending out these awful images, though you have to hold some of them back because it's just -- the destruction of heavy artillery is often too much to put on the air.

But even after those terrible attention-gripping stories have caught everyone's hearts and minds in those initial weeks and months, you run out of new ways to tell what is just an awful, grinding story of combat.


DOZIER: And eventually, the audience gets image fatigue and looks away. In this case where there's so much disinformation being pumped out from the Russian side, you need reporters on the ground to fact check that and to keep people's attention on this conflict because if attention goes elsewhere, unfortunately, in cases like the Syrian war stretched on and on, attention goes elsewhere, and in that case, I fear Putin could win.


STELTER: Hmm. So I'm listening to you, Kim, and I'm wondering, you nearly died in Baghdad in 2006, Bob Woodruff, Cami, these correspondents are never the same, and now, Ben Hall.

So was it worth it? Was it worth it for you? DOZIER: The only thing I would have changed is for Paul and James to

still be here. We had to be there telling that story, and the hardest thing is I don't tell the story of my injury much anymore because it's only part of my identity.


DOZIER: But the wounds can be so horrific that people think of that in terms of you and think, okay, you must be permanently broken. You're changed.

But I've been back to Iraq and Afghanistan on the ground, I've covered conflicts again. Ben when he's ready if he chooses to may as well because, you know, that's why we got into this job, to speak for those who can't, and to let the rest of the world know what's being done to those who can't escape it.

STELTER: Indeed. Kim, thank you very much for sharing your story with us.

DOZIER: Thank you.

STELTER: Graphic and painful images from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have moved people around the world. These are images from an "Associated Press" crew inside the city.

The top editor of the "AP", Julie Pace, is on deck. She's going to tell us about how that crew is surviving.

Plus, Vladimir Putin applying Chinese tactics to Russia, Anne Applebaum also standing by.



STELTER: New reporting from CNN's international desk now, the Russian communications watchdog has ordered the closure of two more news outlets in Russia. This is according to the Russian state news agency TASS. Agentura is an investigative site, now shuttered. Meguasona (ph) is a news outlet covering human rights and police activity, now closed off.

They're the latest to be restricted from the Kremlin. We've been seeing this for days, for weeks, for months. Reporting from Russia is exceedingly difficult, even more so now with the war in Ukraine.

Joining me now for more on that and other topic, Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of "The Associated Press". She's joining me now.

Let's talk about coverage of both Russia and Ukraine, Julie. First, in Russia, we know many major news outlets have withdrawn from the country or stopped doing live broadcasting from Moscow. What is the "AP's: status in Russia right now? JULIE PACE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED

PRESS: We continue to have a presence in Russia. We feel like it's incredibly important for us to report from there, particularly as we see other news organizations leave the country. Obviously, the new laws have put restrictions on journalists, but we're very committed to continuing to tell that story.

STELTER: So how do your journalists in Moscow or around Russia do that without violating the law?

PACE: I don't want to get into too many operational details because I want to protect their ability to do so, but I can tell you that these are decisions and conversations that we have every day, multiple times a day, and we really feel strongly.

You know, we cover a lot of difficult places around the world, a lot of places where there are intense restrictions on journalists. So this is something we're pretty experienced at, but we take the safety of our journalists we put that at the top of the list of our concerns. And this, as I say, is an ongoing conversation we have to ensure we can continue to cover the world, in this case continue to cover Russia and to do so safely.

STELTER: Take us behind the scenes of those conversations to the extent you can because they are mirrored by your competitors at "Reuters" and CNN, the BBC, and "The Post", and "The Times", and all the outlets, everybody is trying to report inside Ukraine but to do so and minimize the obvious risks that are involved.

So, you have teams across Ukraine, are there daily calls, meetings about where to go, where not to go? How does that work?

PACE: It's really an ongoing almost 24/7 conversation. And we are talking constantly on Slack, and text message chains, on conference calls.

And, you know, these assignments always come with some level of risk. There is no way that you can mitigate all of the risks and what we try to do is ensure that we trust our teams on the ground. We have incredibly experienced journalists who are doing this coverage, particularly inside Ukraine right now.

They are giving us guidance. They are putting forward plans. They are analyzing, you know, where they can go, what they want to tell. We're giving them feedback.

We're also in conversation with other news organizations. You know, as much as we are all competing with each other to tell this story, to have the best reporting and the most powerful images, when it comes to safety and security, there's a lot of great cooperation that happens across news organizations.

So we're giving them feedback, they're giving us feedback. And we make decisions really on a case-by-case basis. But as I said, it's really, I think, a 24/7 ongoing conversation that we have about how the tell the story in the safest way possible. STELTER: Tell us about your team, particularly, that's been in

Mariupol in the last couple of weeks. The city besieged, under constant Russian attack, and you've had a photographer and a reporter, correct me if I'm wrong, a photographer and a reporter, in the city, the only international media in the city in recent weeks.

PACE: They have been the only international team there. We are incredibly proud of the work that they are doing. And they have really been the world's eyes and ears for the siege of Mariupol.

They've told this story with such humanity. It's important to note they are both Ukrainian, extremely experienced journalists, and they feel very strongly that they want the world to see what has been happening there.

They have also not only provided powerful images, but they have provided facts.


You know, they've been the ones when the Russian government said that there were no patients left in a maternity hospital that was hit, they were the ones that showed the proof that, in fact, there were.


PACE: That really powerful image that everyone has seen of the pregnant woman on a stretcher. They went back and found that unfortunately, tragically, she died.

So, again, it's not just the power of their images but the power of the facts that they have been putting forward that we're so proud of. Their commitment to the story is incredibly impressive and we expect many more wonderful stories from them in the days and weeks to come.

STELTER: I want to ask you about one other conflict zone, Ethiopia, because as a freelance journalist accredited to your outlet, "The AP", who has been in detention since November. You are trying to raise awareness of this case as well, what's going on.

PACE: Absolutely. I really appreciate you mentioning Amir who is a freelancer accredited to "The AP", who has covering another very difficult situation, a civil war in Ethiopia. He has been held in prison for more than 100 days with no charges filed against him.

We are calling for his release. His detention continues to be extended, again, with no charges filed against him. He is an independent journalist who has covered this conflict from all sides and we expect that he should be released.

He's only being held because he is a journalist. There is no other reason for his detention right now. I only hope the world joins us in calling for his fast release.

STELTER: It occurs to me that protecting your teams in the field is many people's full-time jobs these days. PACE: It absolutely is. As I say, safety is the number one priority

for us. We want to be on the ground, we expect to be in dangerous places, but protecting our teams who are out there doing this crucial work is the most important thing that we can do right now.

STELTER: Julie Pace, thank you for coming on.

PACE: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Still to come, we're going inside a Russia-Ukraine disinformation tracking center. Plus, tracking is one thing, blocking is another. Is the UK doing the right thing by banning the Russia Today network?




BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: The Ferris wheel of Russian propaganda spinning wildly amid the invasion of Ukraine. State media spewing disinformation, of course, working as the Kremlin's mouthpiece, it's going on every minute of every hour, and it means that many Russians are out of touch with what's actually happening in Ukraine. I spoke with CNN Analyst and New York Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger about what Vladimir Putin has done borrowing the Chinese model.


DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We thought in the internet age, with the flow of data that came across to Facebook -- through Facebook, Twitter, every other form of social media, that there was basically no way to wall countries off from each other's information.

And to some degree, that's probably still the case. But what you've seen happen in the past three weeks since the war started, is that the iron curtain that you heard, Winston Churchill talked about in his famous speech in 1946, has descended around Russia, some of it imposed by us and our allies, much of it imposed by Putin. He has sort of done in three weeks what the Chinese spent the past seven or eight years doing.


STELTER: Years of information control in a matter of weeks. Let's talk about the blackout and how to get around it with Anne Applebaum, Staff Writer for The Atlantic and author of Twilight of Democracy. She just testified to the U.S. Senate. Plus, Peter Pomerantsev, author of books like "This Is Not Propaganda," and "Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible." He's a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University's record Institute.

Anne, your message to the Senate this week was about fighting autocracy. Do you think the past month the war in Ukraine has woken up Americans and many maybe others in the world about what President Biden often talks about, about democracy versus autocracy and a hypothetical sense, feels very real now, and maybe folks are paying attention?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, I do think this is a really galvanizing moment because we can see both what kind of damage a brutal autocracy like Russia can do but also how ill-prepared we've been for it and how naive we were about it. You're really right to focus on this information piece because it's really been clear for a long time that we needed better ways to communicate not just with Russia -- Russians but also with other people who live inside autocracies.

We don't really have the ability to do so. We have pieces of that possibility and different parts of the U.S. government. We have Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which does broadcast in the languages of the -- in Russian in the region, we have Radio Free Asia, but none of it is happening at the scale that it needs to be happening.

STELTER: When you were speaking to the Senate this week, what was your primary message, what do you want to have changed? I close -- it clearly, it's a scaling up of what you're describing.

APPLEBAUM: So there were two -- there were two messages. One was that, that we need to pick together all of the pieces of the U.S. government that deal with this problem, and they're tucked in the State Department and the U.S. -- you know in U.S. AGM, which is the thing that controls foreign broadcasting, as well as in some of the intelligence services we need to put that together again.

The other piece of the argument was about Kleptocracy and how we need to make our financial system impossible to be used by foreign autocrats and kleptocrats. We need to end the process -- the secrecy in investments. We need to end the possibility of investing in property secretly when you remove all that anonymity so that our financial markets and our political system don't get used to building autocracies around the world.


STELTER: Hmm. Peter, I know this is personal for you. You were born in Kyiv. So I want to ask you about a couple of things you've written recently. But just tell us first what you've been experiencing in the past couple of weeks, what you're hearing from friends still in the country?

PETER POMERANTSEV, AUTHOR, "THIS IS NOT PROPAGANDA": Well, I've learned never to ask the question how you're doing because that can be quite difficult to answer for people, maybe for myself as well. So I kind of -- you know I kind of focused on action, you know, so it's all about action at the moment.

Campaigns to, you know, spread the truth about what's happening in Ukraine, across the world, campaigns into Russia to communicate with Russians, and really for campaigns here to really get people to understand that this isn't some parochial conflict between Ukraine and Russia, this is Vladimir Putin's attack on sort of our democratic values and his attempt to create a world which is safe for dictatorship. And we all need to react to that.

STELTER: As Anne described, so this is a case though, is a galvanizing moment. Peter, I often cite your book, I mentioned it here last week and that's where I was like, I should probably just book you and talk about it. Your work, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, looking at Russia and how that propaganda machine works. Is it actually working now, though? Do you think it's -- is that -- is that title more true today, or are there now more holes in Putin's propaganda machine?

POMERANTSEV: You meet -- well, there's two things to look at. There's, you know, the propaganda to the West, which is obviously taking a big hit, partly because Putin didn't tell his information war people that he was about to go to war, they were completely unprepared.

But even though there's been, you know, quite a strong consensus, and a lot of the West, Russian messages are seeping through evermore actively on social media, on Facebook, and through YouTube. So there is actually -- there will be an increasing assault onto the West and countries like Hungary, the state media is supporting Russia, and Bulgaria there are a lot of sort of media that are essentially proxies for Russia. But then beyond the West, things are very, very bad.

In the Middle East, in India, in Latin America, the Kremlin is largely winning the sort of the narrative, battlespace. Then what -- Anne talks about the main thing which is inside Russia. How do we communicate with people inside of Russia? At the end of the day, this will end when sentiment in Russia turns against the Kremlin to the extent where its own elites are emboldened to take a major change in policy.

STELTER: Anne, do you agree?

APPLEBAUM: Yes. I mean, I'm not quite sure what the mechanism is but clearly, there's a reason why Putin doesn't want Russians to have good information about the war, why he's not talking about the war. And you know, if you think about it, it's very unusual to fight a war, and then avoid the fact that you're fighting it. I mean, he's actually banned people from using the expression war or invasion. He wants to downgrade it all the time.

And so, he's doing that for reason. He fears that if it became unpopular, that that unpopular it would then reflect on him and it might endanger his power. So, yes, I do think that enlightening Russians, communicating with Russians should be part of what our strategy is now.

STELTER: And quickly, to you both, what are you both watching in the week ahead? We're hearing military experts on television talking about this being a stalemate now. Peter, first to you, what are you watching in the week ahead?

POMERANTSEV: I am -- I suppose I've watched a lot of things but the main thing that I'm watching is this horrific upscale in war crimes, these shelling -- direct shelling of schools and hospitals. And actually, I'm watching us. I've been actually a little bit shocked by the very weak way Western leaders and Western opinion makers are talking about this latent humanitarian crisis that's happening.

I really don't understand why we're not taking a stronger stance on this, I'm not -- I don't understand why we're not putting this in the middle of our -- of our talking points and also of our action. We have to be talking about safeguarding humanitarian corridors. Maybe America is now too weak and confused to lead that, so I will be looking for the E.U. Is there a possibility of an E.U. peacekeeping force to ensure humanitarian concerns? And I suppose I'm looking to one man, Macron. This is your moment.

STELTER: Anne, to you.

APPLEBAUM: I'm watching the Ukrainian army, which is beginning to push back against the Russian positions. The moment when the Russians begin retreat is the moment when it will be both the most dangerous moment of the war but it will also be the most important and will then when Ukrainians start to win.


STELTER: Anne, and, Peter, thank you both. Check out Anne's testimony to the Senate at After the break here, an exclusive first look at a shocking new report about TikTok about how it spreads disinformation about Russians bore to new users, an executive from NewsGuard, right after the break.


STELTER: TikTok is feeding more disinformation to new users within minutes of joining the app, even if they don't search for Ukraine- related content or for that matter search for anything at all. That's according to a new report by NewsGuard. We've been given a first look at this report that shows TikTok pushing false and misleading videos about the war in Ukraine to users within 40 minutes of signing up for the app in the first place. What's going on here?


STELTER: Joining me right now is Matt Skibinski, he's the general manager of NewsGuard Technologies. In here with me in New York, Mara Schiavocampo, former ABC News and NBC News correspondent, now-host of the podcast Run Tell This. And Philip Bump, National Correspondent at the Washington Post. Matt, what is your research showing exactly about TikTok? Why are -- why are new users being exposed to nonsense?

MATT SKIBINSKI, GENERAL MANAGER, NEWSGUARD TECHNOLOGIES: Sure. So we wanted to look in this report not just at whether there was Russian disinformation on TikTok, but how users find it and to what extent the app pushes users toward Russian disinformation.

So, we had a set of analysts based in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, kind of all across the world, install fresh TikTok apps on their phone with new accounts and just start scrolling. So they didn't search for anything, they didn't like any videos, they didn't follow any particular users.

And what we found was, you know, even in just a 45-minute experiment that we did with each user, all of them found some amount of disinformation about the war in Ukraine, many of those disinformation narratives were the ones that Russia has been using to justify the war, things like saying that you know Ukraine's leaders are Nazis, or that the United States and Ukraine have been creating bioweapons labs on the Russian border, that Ukrainians were committing genocide against Russian people in Ukraine, all of which is, of course, not true and has been spreading on TikTok.

STELTER: People have been calling this a TikTok war, Mara. And I think some people refer to that as hey, we're seeing videos of the Russian troop movements on TikTok, and we're seeing Ukrainian troops, you know, rally the country on. But this is the downside of a TikTok war, one of the many dangers of a TikTok war.

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, FORMER ABC AND NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so social media cuts both ways. On the one hand, it can be incredibly important in a circumstance like this because for example, a lot of what we've learned from what's happening in Ukraine, firsthand accounts has been through the use of social media.

You know, Zelenskyy has been brilliant and using social media to speak directly to the West, to speak directly to the outside world, posting videos of himself on the streets, urging Ukrainians to take up arms. So that's the best of it. But then you have the other side of it and this is something that we've spoken about a lot is the dangers, the potential danger of the algorithm, where when you are on social media, you are not necessarily getting the biggest picture, the most accurate picture of what's taking place, you're getting what the algorithm thinks you want to see.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: So there's a lot less discernment of what's important and also what's true. You know, a big problem in social media has been misinformation and policing misinformation. So this is very much something that is incredibly beneficial in a circumstance like this but can also be incredibly dangerous and that's why it's really important to have communication channels that allow people to get accurate verified information.

STELTER: More on Zelenskyy in a moment, but this decision by Russia -- by the British comms regulator, Ofcom, to ban Russia Today from the country, we've not seen a version of that in the United States. Well, we have seen a satellite carrier drop Russia Today, a commercial decision, but here's the UK Government banning RT. Is that worse than the problem? Like is that -- is the -- is the cure worse than the poison?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it's important to remember, obviously, there's no First Amendment in the UK, they have different rules of governing how media actually operates sort of who knows this. But I mean, I think the question here is we always have sort of a baseline for the amount of nonsense we allow in our conversation, right?

And so, it is fine for me, generally speaking, if I go out to a beach in the middle of a hot sunny -- summer day and yell, hey, there's a fire that has a different reaction than inside the theater use that famous. Example --


BUMP: Where you are in the context of the moment differentiates whether nonsense is something dangerous, or just simply nonsense. And so when Russia Today is putting out nonsense, which it did with some regularity, it means something different in the context of a war that you -- Russia is actually actively engaged in against Ukraine when it is the Russian government, obviously, it is heavily invested in RT.

And so, I think that yes, I think all of us sitting up here are advocates for allowing as much conversation as possible, but it certainly is the case, so with the UK operating under different rules, is reacting to a very different scenario than RT was in two months ago.

STELTER: And, Matt, NewsGuard gives nutrition label type grades for websites, you're now expanding into television networks, can't wait to get the grade for this program, so what grade is Russia Today or RT get? Do you all currently rate Russian state media?

SKIBINSKI: We do. We've rated Russia Today. We rated Sputnik News and some of the other state media outfits -- outlets in Russia. All of them get untrustworthy ratings from NewsGuard. We rate on a score of zero to 100, they're all in the range of you know, 20 or below using the nine criteria that we use to rate websites.

And by the way, we've also been tracking about over 150 other domains that are not official Russian state media sources that are spreading disinformation about the war in Russia that matches Russian narratives. A lot of these are anonymous websites, websites that look like research foundations or that are targeted to U.S. audiences but they're parroting the exact narratives that you would see on RT, Sputnik, and other Russian state media.


SKIBINSKI: So you know even taking severe action, as many platforms have done against the official Russian state media outlets doesn't really eliminate the spread of this disinformation. It's spreading through kind of a loose network of different websites and outlets that are online.

STELTER: Right. Mara, you mention Zelenskyy and all the ways he's using media. He's on Fareed Zakaria GPS re-airing in about an hour. You know, I think there is this sense that he's reaching the West very effectively, you know, but I guess I'm nervous that people are just -- are turning him into a hero without maybe thinking through all of his -- thinking -- I guess I'm worried about the overreaction to Zelenskyy.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: But what's important is, more so than how people are viewing him, is the fact that they are able to evaluate him --

STELTER: OK, good point.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Based on seeing him.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: So imagine if Putin's narrative was the only narrative out there, we might believe that he was a drug-addled neo-Nazi. And when you see him, you see that that is clearly not the case and he is able to plead his case in his own words. We also are able to see a man who is not this battle-tested career military guy standing up to one of the most powerful armies in the world, which really has elevated him to this exceptional example of global leadership. So people were able to see him for them -- for themselves and evaluate him.

STELTER: And his former -- and TV shows now back on Netflix, Philip, you were watching it last night, what's your review?

BUMP: It's fascinating. I mean, this is the show for folks who aren't aware. He plays a high school teacher who stumbles into becoming elected President of Ukraine, right? And then he was able to parlay that into actually being a celebrity in Ukraine and winning the presidency in Ukraine.

In the first episode, there's this joke about how he's trying to choose a watch and someone says, oh, this is the watch that Vladimir Putin wore, and it's just sort of this bizarre, bizarre moment where you have the guy who's eventually going to be the president at war with Putin having a joke that he's making about Putin.

A joke that by the way, I was informed on Twitter, I didn't understand because I didn't actually speak the language so word of warning for those who might want to tune in --

STELTER: Good reminder more generally too, yes.

BUMP: Yes, absolutely. But it's just -- it is a fascinating document. And the thing that I have to say this, how does he get his royalty payments? Is Netflix sending him royalty payments right now in Ukraine? Just this bizarre weird interleaf of Western culture at the moment.

STELTER: Interesting. Everybody, thank you very much for the conversation. After the break, a milestone about this program and some news about what's ahead.



STELTER: Most of the time here on CNN, we look outward and focus on the world's stories but here, we carve out a little time to look inward, at the roles of the media and how the media affects you. It's a tradition that began 30 years ago this month. 30 years ago, RELIABLE SOURCES was born.


BERNARD KALB, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a CNN special, I'm Bernard Kalb. RELIABLE SOURCES is what this program is called and the title tells it all.


STELTER: Thanks to Bernie Kalb and original panelists, Howard Kurtz, and original executive producer Rick Davis, RELIABLE SOURCES was born. Not much lasts on TV for three decades, but RELIABLE is now the longest-running program in the history of CNN without any interruptions. INSIDE POLITICS premiered earlier but it went off the air for a while.

So, RS has been reliable on CNN's schedule because media issues are universal, and they're always evolving. And as you can see in the very first episode, panelists, Marion Goldin called for more fact-checking by the press. Why she said, are our news outlets policing campaign ads, but not speeches?


MARION GOLDIN, PRODUCER: But I'm wondering why we have gone to be a truth scar -- a truth squad for these ads and not done the same or similar analysis of press conferences, debate statements, speeches, give and take?


STELTER: These days, there is a lot more true squatting so slowly, but surely, media criticism can improve media diets. In that first episode, it began with a conversation equally relevant today about anonymous sources accusing a high-profile figure of harassment. I believe our biggest value out here is to inform people about how the media really works, why reporters do what they do.

Because the best critiques the strongest arguments about improving the press are based on knowing how it operates and why. We all rely on some form of media and we're all members of the media now with broadcasting tools in our pockets. That's the point of view I've tried to bring to this program, building on Calvin Kurtz's critical lens on the media. By the way, Calv, just turned 100 years old so if he's watching right now, happy birthday, and thank you, Bernie.

Later this month, just in time for this show's 30th birthday, we're going to expand again. You know, we already have a newsletter now and a podcast, in addition to the flagship weekly show, and on March 29, when CNN+ launches, we're going to expand into a weekday form. RELIABLE SOURCES daily on the CNN+ streaming service.

We'll give a space to cover all the stories we can't fit into this hour on Sundays. We look forward to seeing you there and here to explore the story behind the story. So let me finish with something that would have made no sense 30 years ago. Tweet us, e-mail us, send us your ideas for this show.

In 30 more years, I bet there will be some technologies, some ways to interact that will make no sense to us today. Everyone is a source now. So how do you know what's reliable? I bet that'll be a question still worth asking and answering 30 years from now. All right, now back to the big story, CNN's live coverage of the war in Ukraine continues. Jake Tapper picks up now with STATE OF THE UNION.