I was shocked a few days ago when I heard a BBC journalist talking to the news presenter on the BBC in the UK. He said he was providing a balanced view of the invasion of Ukraine but he refused to use the word ‘invasion’ and he refused to use the word ‘war’. But this article is not about that particular incident. It’s about the BBC’s decision to resume English language reporting inside Russia after they’d paused.
Russia have introduced a law which states that if anybody peddles “fake news” they can be convicted and imprisoned for 15 years. What they mean by ‘fake news’ is the truth. You can’t call the invasion an invasion. You can’t describe it as a war. You have to characterise it in the words of Putin as some sort of peacekeeping mission or “special operation”. You could not describe the invasion in a more euphemistically incorrect way than that. You know, Putin calls democracy-loving Ukrainians ‘Nazis’. He is trying to call black, white and turn the truth on its head.
So, the BBC in order to protect their journalists from being arrested and tried for treason have to describe Putin’s invasion as a special operation or a peacekeeping mission. The BBC call this balanced reporting. Either that or they skip around the word ‘invasion’ and find some way to report without mentioning these taboo words on Russian TV.
Later: On my observation from reports from Moscow by the BBC, they appear to have decided to skip around any delicate topics which need to be talked about in order to avoid censoring. However, The Times has reported that the Kremlin is going to censor the BBC in Moscow. I would think that this spells the end of the BBC’s presence in Russia reporting on the Ukraine war. If they going to be censored, they’re going to be biased and the BBC prides itself on being unbiased. It’s their raison d’être.
They said: “We will tell this crucial part of the story independently and impartially adhering to the BBC’s strict editorial standards”. A joke. You can’t be independent in Russia because of this law. When you think independently in Russia you get imprisoned or shot. It is estimated that 21 journalists have been killed since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in March 2000.
They are saying in that statement that if they toe the line and don’t call the invasion an invasion, they are providing an impartial report. That’s just ridiculous. If they have to comply with the extreme repression of reporting in Russia they automatically have to be biased in favour of Russia because if you don’t report in that biased way you’re going to be arrested.
Tim Davey, the director-general of the BBC said that “We remain committed to making accurate, independent information available to audiences around the world including the millions of Russians who use our new service”. This is baloney. As I’ve mentioned, the only way the BBC can survive inside Russia is to peddle the Kremlin’s reporting of the war in Ukraine. If they step out of line and tell the truth then they will be shut down and arrested. The Russians have turned the truth upside down.
There is an interesting story to back this up. A boy of 12 who has Ukrainian roots was in a classroom when he spoke out after his teacher told the class that the conflict was necessary to halt Kyiv’s aggression. The boy disputed her claim that Ukraine was a Nazi state that had begun hostilities. This is a 12-year-old boy who spoke the truth in challenging the storyline as peddled by Putin and his cronies. And the result? His mother was threatened with being forcibly taken into custody if she did not report for questioning. I have no idea what happened to her. I dread to think.
And then the boy said that: “They tell us that residents of Ukraine have been brainwashed but it seems to me that we are being brainwashed here”. Those are the words of the boy who is 12 years of age who has been identified as Kirill. What a brave boy but I bet his mother is more than worried.
And in a region 200 miles from Moscow called Kostroma, police charged a priest with discrediting the actions of the Russian army after he called for peace in his sermon and published a petition advocating an end to the war.
There is extreme repression in Russia. You can’t tell the truth about this invasion inside Russia and if you do you will be arrested and taken away to the cells where you will be tried eventually and imprisoned for a maximum of 15 years.
The New York Times realises this. They’ve announced that they will pull out of Russia in response to the crackdown on journalists. They are doing it for the safety of their staff. But what they are saying indirectly is that they can’t report honestly without jeopardising their staff. Therefore, it is untenable to report inside Russia at this time.
The BBC are fooling themselves and lying to the Russian people. Despite this widespread indoctrination of the citizens of Russia the truth leaks into the country via the internet if it has not been closed down by the Kremlin which is why there are extensive protests of thousands of which 4,500 were arrested over the weekend.
Putin has to keep the lid on his dramatic failure and aggression and it won’t be easy. He can never win because if he does win the battles and takes the land he will never take and control the Ukrainian people and they are the country.
Postscript: the UN insists that their staff do not refer to the invasion as ‘the invasion’ or ‘a war’. They said that this was because they have to remain impartial. For them, impartiality means lying. I don’t think impartiality is dependent upon lying which is what the administrators of the UN are saying. If you deliberately omit to speak the facts you are lying by omission as far as I am concerned.