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Press association backs EL PAÍS journalist targeted by Russian smear campaign

Managing Editor David Alandete is accused by Kremlin-backed media of having ties to the CIA

David Alandete at the World Economic Forum in Brazil.
David Alandete at the World Economic Forum in Brazil.

The Madrid Press Association (APM) has expressed public support for EL PAÍS Managing Editor David Alandete, who is being targeted by a “smear campaign” conducted by Russian media organizations such as Russia Today and Sputnik, and by groups like the Eurasia Hispanic-Russian Observatory.

The APM said that this harassment “violates the right to freedom of the press, and is an attempt at depriving citizens of information that is of public interest.”

The APM said that these accusations are aimed at discrediting Alandete’s entire body of work

The smear campaign, which includes denigrating comments about Alandete, was triggered by the news stories that EL PAÍS has been publishing in recent months on the subject of Russian meddling in the Catalan secessionist bid and in voting processes across Europe, with a special focus on the Brexit referendum and the recent elections in France and The Netherlands.

In a statement released on Thursday, the APM noted that instigators of the campaign are accusing Alandete of having ties with the CIA, based on the fact that he obtained a master’s degree in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University, which he attended on a Fulbright fellowship.

According to Russian media organizations, the Fulbright Foundation is one of several groups that collaborate with the US intelligence services.

The APM said that these accusations are aimed at discrediting Alandete’s entire body of work. “To claim that someone has ties to the CIA is a serious accusation that requires greater proof than having studied in the United States on a Fulbright fellowship,” said the veteran newspaper association, which was founded in 1895.

EL PAÍS has been reporting on Kremlin-financed media’s ability to affect electoral processes in Europe by favoring populist and xenophobic choices. In the case of the Catalan secessionist bid, Russian outlets disseminated numerous hoaxes and misleading messages.

In December, Alandete was a witness at a UK parliamentary committee investigating allegations of Russian meddling in several Western democracies.

The APM’s statement comes on the same day that the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions “against Russian cyber actors for interference with the 2016 US elections and malicious cyber-attacks.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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