In an article titled “Ukraine conflict: Is Russia stoking war or pushing peace?” published on the BBC News website’s Europe page on January 20th, Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford made the following observations:
“For months, Moscow has accused a “fascist” government in Kiev of conducting a “punitive” operation – even genocide – against Russian speakers in Donetsk and Luhansk.
That message is hammered home daily by state-controlled television, which portrays patriotic rebel warriors alongside helpless civilians under attack by indiscriminate Ukrainian artillery. The fact that insurgents frequently fire from residential areas is never mentioned.”
The caption to a picture used to illustrate the article also informed audiences that:
“Russian state TV depicts rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk as warriors defending civilians”
Those observations may indeed be accurate and justified, but one does have to note the irony of the fact that the BBC finds it worth pointing out to audiences that the Russian state media’s failure to report that “insurgents frequently fire from residential areas” is one method used to influence the public’s perception of the hostilities in Ukraine.
After all, it took the BBC itself no fewer than thirty-six days to get round to telling its audiences that “at times” terrorists in the Gaza Strip “have operated from civilian areas” in its coverage of last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. And when members of the public complained about the corporation’s failure to report adequately on the issue of terrorist missile fire from residential areas, they were informed that “[i]t was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”.
If the BBC is serious about safeguarding its reputation as an accurate, impartial and independent reporter of news, it might care to examine how – and why – its own reporting of the conflict between Hamas and Israel was tailored to influence public opinion in ways apparently not all that different from those used by Russia’s non-independent media outlets.