Reuters removes TASS Russian news agency from its content marketplace

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March 23 (Reuters) - Reuters has removed TASS from its business-to-business marketplace for customers, according to a Reuters message to staff on Wednesday, amid growing criticism of how Russia's state-owned news agency is portraying the war in Ukraine.

"We believe making TASS content available on Reuters Connect is not aligned with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles," Matthew Keen, interim CEO of Reuters, wrote in an internal memo to staff on Wednesday.

The Reuters Trust Principles, created in 1941 amid World War Two, commits Reuters to act with integrity, independence and freedom from bias.

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In response to a request for comment from Reuters, TASS shared a letter that its CEO Sergei Mikhailov sent to Keen on Wednesday in which he said he was "extremely sorry to learn of Reuters' decision" and that he understood it was "influenced by the current world atmosphere.”

"TASS journalists conduct their work honestly and responsibly. Any unbiased analysis will confirm that the informational work of TASS, as a state news agency, is equitable, objective and sufficiently balanced, with no room for disinformation and propaganda fakes," he said.

The Russian news agency has been accused by some Western media and press freedom groups of spreading false claims and propaganda about the war in Ukraine. Since the invasion, tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter and pay TV services have restricted access to Russia state-owned media RT and Sputnik over concerns about spreading misinformation. RT and Sputnik have called restrictions placed on them by distributors, which include app stores and other social media services, unjustified censorship. read more

Early in March, photo agency Getty Images cut ties with TASS, according to a Forbes report.

A Getty spokesperson said by email: "In order to ensure the integrity of the content we distribute, we require that partners and contributors comply with our Editorial Policy."

She added that "Recent TASS content failed to meet those guidelines and ingestion of their content was suspended. We have notified them of a breach of our agreement and are terminating our relationship." She declined to specify which content fell short of its guidelines.

The Forbes story said TASS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters Connect allowed users, mostly news organizations, to access and share TASS content for a fee. Reuters Connect also offers the content of Reuters News and about 90 third-party providers, including Variety, USA Today and CNBC.

The Reuters newsroom operates independently of Reuters Connect.

The TASS partnership with the Reuters Connect platform was struck in 2020. In a June 1 press release that year, Michael Friedenberg, then president of Reuters, said having TASS join Reuters Connect was “building upon our valued partnership.” Mikhailov called the agreement “truly a significant event.”

According to the press release, the TASS partnership with Reuters Connect offered customers "access to breaking news and exclusive video; videos on the Kremlin and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, as well as feature videos and general news."

Since the invasion, the partnership has sparked sharp criticism on social media. A Politico story published on March 20 cited unnamed Reuters journalists saying they were embarrassed by the company's partnership with TASS.

Reuters is owned by news and information company Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.TO).

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Reporting by Kenneth Li and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Edward Tobin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.