Thursday, March 06, 2014

Ukraine coverage

In the Guardian among many other things, Simon Jenkins points out:
What has been encouraging about the Ukraine crisis so far has been the unusual emergence of a "case to be made" on both sides. For once we have seen a "revolution" with some balanced coverage. The BBC's Newsnight investigated the "fascist coup" in Kiev thesis, and found some truth in it. The legitimacy of Viktor Yanukovych as elected leader was contrasted with his manifest flaws, as was the motley character of the Maidan crowd. We know of the divided loyalties of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

In the past week I have read more than I dreamed possible of the vexed history of Crimea, of Ukraine's role in Russian identity, and of Putin's complex relationship with Russian pride and paranoia. I have seen Moscow's re-occupation of Crimea as both understandable and illegitimate. Its legal crudity – without even awaiting a local referendum – compares with the political crudity of Nato's attempted encirclement.
 Not so fast, Stephen F. Cohen would say, that is the UK only, or UK and Europe.  Not the USA!
In the Nation he writes

The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines—particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin—is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.

There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or “expert” views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.
After listing a long series of examples of distortions, Cohen writes:
Such factual distortions point to two flagrant omissions by Snyder and other US media accounts. The now exceedingly dangerous confrontation between the two Ukraines was not “ignited,” as the Times claims, by Yanukovych’s duplicitous negotiating—or by Putin—but by the EU’s reckless ultimatum, in November, that the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country choose between Europe and Russia. Putin’s proposal for a tripartite arrangement, rarely if ever reported, was flatly rejected by US and EU officials.

But the most crucial media omission is Moscow’s reasonable conviction that the struggle for Ukraine is yet another chapter in the West’s ongoing, US-led march toward post-Soviet Russia, which began in the 1990s with NATO’s eastward expansion and continued with US-funded NGO political activities inside Russia, a US-NATO military outpost in Georgia and missile-defense installations near Russia. Whether this longstanding Washington-Brussels policy is wise or reckless, it—not Putin’s December financial offer to save Ukraine’s collapsing economy—is deceitful. The EU’s “civilizational” proposal, for example, includes “security policy” provisions, almost never reported, that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.