UK-registered news company 'pumping out Russian propaganda' for Arabic speakers: report

UK-registered news company 'pumping out Russian propaganda' for Arabic speakers: report
UK-registered Arabic 'news website' Yala News has been pumping out pro-Kremlin propaganda over the past year, a BBC investigation has claimed.
2 min read
05 April, 2023
The CEO of Yala News claimed his site was free of influence [Getty]

A UK-registered media company is pumping out Russian state disinformation to millions in the Arabic-speaking world, a BBC investigation claimed on Tuesday. 

Yala News, which has three million Arabic-speaking followers, says it delivers impartial and independent news from a head office in London.

However, the website, a subsidiary of Yala Group, produced dozens of videos over a 12-month period that mirrored content released by Russian state media outlets Sputnik Arabic and Russia Today (RT) Arabic, the BBC claimed.

The site, whose posts have gained traction since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February of last year, most likely operates out of Syria in collaboration with Bashar Al-Assad's regime, the broadcaster claimed.

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"Because of Yala’s popularity [with] Arabic audiences, Kremlin-affiliated sources might be using it to spread their interests," said Belen Carrasco from the Centre for Information Resilience in the UK, according to the BBC. 

She called this a form of "information laundering" to disguise Russian propaganda as content produced by a third party.

Other false claims from Yala News include stories about the US using birds as bioweapons to spread disease in Ukraine. There were also videos incorrectly alleging that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation while drunk and that his soldiers have been fleeing the frontline.  

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Yala News is registered at an address in Bloomsbury, central London. However, there is no office or staff at the site. 

Instead, the BBC discovered that a number of its employees work in a suburb of Damascus

The Syrian regime under Assad has been a long-time ally of Russia, with Moscow providing arms for pro-Assad forces during the 12 years of civil war and conducting devastating airstrikes on opposition-held areas of Syria since 2015.

The company’s CEO Ahmad Moemna, a Syrian businessman in Dubai, told the BBC that the content was "not biased. Whether Syria or Russia or anything else, we respect impartiality".