Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Euronews is Eurobust when it comes to unbiased reporting

By Aussiegirl

The Brussels Journal brings us news that a EU funded TV station intended to be a source of independent and unbiased news coverage for those living in Lukashenko's KGB-style dictatorship is itself an outlet for propaganda that sounds like it might have been cooked up in the old Kremlin. More EU money down the drain and funding dubious and self-defeating projects.

Belarusian Blog Unveils EU's Duplicity The Brussels Journal

There is a blog to which Margot Wallström, the European Commissioner for Communication Policy, will hardly want to link her own. BR23, a leading English-language blog on Belarus, reveals that the EU’s mismanaged media policy is bolstering Lukashenko’s regime instead of fighting it. The blog’s criticism is directed at Euronews, a TV channel subsidized by Brussels to broadcast EU-related news in exchange for 5,000,000 Euro in annual funding.

Establishing media presence in Belarus has been one of the EU’s top priorities in Belarus. Thus, last year the EU launched a radio station to broadcast around the country. According to a recent report [pdf] on the Belarusian media prepared by the International Federation of Journalists, the experiment is not very successful, despite the costs of 2,000,000 Euro. Only those living in a few Western regions can tune in for continuous coverage; the capital and other major cities are out of permanent reach, and can listen to only one hour of news per day.

Euronews remains the EU’s loudest voice in Belarus. At the least, one would expect it to be fair in covering the turbulence in the country. If you watch the English-language edition of Euronews, this is the picture you see. Its reporting will be accurate, professional, and balanced, being on par with that of BBC or CNN. EU diplomats should take special pride in watching news from Minsk on this particular EU-funded channel. That people in Belarus might not be seeing the same pictures and hearing the same commentaries when watching the same news channel seems to have never crossed their minds.

How is this possible? Quite simple: people in Belarus do not watch the English-language edition of Euronews. Instead, they watch its Russian-language edition. Thanks to BR23, the bias of the Russian-language edition has been revealed and well-documented. The blog details it meticulously, providing links to video files, news transcripts, and even conducting cross-channel comparisons of news coverage of given events. Reading it will make EU diplomats blush, as it unveils that the commentary of the Russian edition of Euronews is often one-sided, downplaying the efforts of the Belarusian opposition and being almost apologetic to Lukashenko’s regime.

One does not need a PhD in media studies to see that. Following the elections the English-language edition ran a commentary “hundreds of protesters stayed overnight on the main Minsk square in the tents”, but the Russian edition omitted it completely. According to BR23, there was not a single mention of protesters in the Russian-language edition on that day at all. Ignoring this news on a day when 20,000 people – the biggest number in Belarusian history – poured into the streets is unacceptable.

Other examples abound. When police arrested protesters from the square a few days later, the English version ran the headline “Riot police break up Belarus demo”, while the Russian version beamed with cynicism – “Belarusian revolutionaries ran out of fuel”. The blog provides ample evidence of other bias.

You may be excused for thinking that the Russian-language edition of Euronews is edited in the KGB’s headquarters by former editors of Pravda. This is not the case. Euronews is prepared by a predominantly Russian team of professionals, who, working for a European news channel, are expected to deliver commensurate reporting and commentary. In contrast, however, their coverage hardly differs from that of major Russian channels, who in their sycophant adherence to the Kremlin’s orders treat ethical journalism as an unnecessary burden. Why a channel funded by European taxpayers follows the same route, undermining the EU’s own efforts in the country, remains unclear.

It is not the first time that Brussels takes with one hand what it gives with another. The EU’s proverbial drive to end global poverty, eviscerated of any substance by its own agricultural policy, is a case in point. Now, similar duplicity seems to be creeping into EU’s foreign policy. Could the Euronews bias be more than a lack of editorial supervision, exposing EU’s latent efforts to court the Kremlin?

The People of Belarus are not the only victims of this duplicity. The EU’s recent thinking on Turkmenistan, another post-Soviet dictatorship, presents Brussels as an energy junkie willing to sell its own house for an extra cubic meter of gas. With its cheap but limited gas supplies, badly wanted by the EU, Turkmenistan seems ripe for another decade of dictatorship, especially when China is rising to claim the gas that was previously shipped to Europe.

Will the EU endorse this dictatorship too, as long as gas flows in the right direction? To learn more, wait for the Turkmen version of Euronews. For now, the Russian one will do.


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