In Ukraine, May 14, 2016

Ukrainian MPs have urged the BBC to stop distorting reality and say “Russian aggression” instead of “civil war” when describing the conflict in the country. The BBC has rejected the demand, reserving the right to use various terms to “objectively” cover the events.

Image of BBC (Neil Hall, Reuters)

Image of BBC (Neil Hall, Reuters)

In a letter to the British Broadcasting Corporation, Ukrainian MPs called on the BBC to make changes in the way it covers news in eastern Ukraine and exclude the phrase “civil war”  from their reports on the crisis in the country. On Friday, politician Svitlana Zalishchuk from the Subcommittee on Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and European Integration Committee on Foreign Affairs posted a copy of the letter addressed to BBC’s Non-Executive Director, Director-General and Chairwoman of BBC Trust on Facebook.

The request came after BBC showcased a film called “The Conspiracy Files: Who shot down MH17” on May 3 addressing the cause of the crash of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014 in Ukraine.

“This is our reaction to the broadcasting of the documentary “Who Shot Down MH17?” on the British channel BBC 2,” wrote Zalishchuk on Facebook. Read more Police officers and opposition supporters are seen on Maidan Nezalezhnosti square in Kiev, where clashes began between protesters and the police, February 19, 2014. © Andrey Stenin ‘Wrong’ Maidan: Ukraine demands that France’s Canal+ TV take hard-hitting documentary off air

The MPs’ letter said that the term “civil war” used by the broadcaster in the documentary was “biased” and “misleading.” Reiterating “Russian propaganda slogans,” lawmakers claimed, it serves “no purpose in disseminating objective or accurate information.”

The term “civil war” is inappropriate, since, according to the MPs, the situation in eastern Ukraine is nothing but “Russian aggression,” which has been “unanimously condemned” by international institutions and governments of “democratic countries.”

BBC declined the proposal saying it is free to use various wordings when covering the events.

“The using of this term [“civil war”] does not mean we are taking somebody’s side as we adhere to maintaining an exact, impartial and objective coverage of the Ukraine conflict,” a BBC spokeswoman told TASS.

“We use different terms to describe the events in Ukraine to our audience and we have used the wording “civil war” alongside with other collocations.”

The spokeswoman added that it is up to the audience to decide whether to agree or not with the BBC formulations.

This is not the first time Kiev has tried to exert influence on foreign mass media. In February Ukraine authorities demanded that the French channel Canal + stop broadcasting a documentary on the Ukraine crisis, claiming it is distorting real events. French authorities ignored the proposal.

The film titled “Ukraine: The Masks of Revolutions” is a series of investigations carried out by a French journalist Paul Moreira which sheds light on the events that took place in years 2013-2014 during the coup in Ukraine. The documentary also claimed the US to have been involved in sponsoring of the Ukrainian far-right extremist groups.

Kiev’s demand on BBC not to mention ‘civil war’ a sign of ‘ideological complex’, May 15, 2016

The people in power in Kiev have become the prisoners of their own fantasies and see the world in terms that are not fact-based, says Kees Van Der Pijl, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex, England.

Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC, has rebuffed a request from Ukraine to refer to the conflict in the east of the country as due solely to “Russian aggression.” Ukrainian MPs accused the broadcaster of biased coverage and demanded that it changed the wording in its reports. The BBC responded by saying that it did not take sides and used a variety of terms to describe the conflict.

It’s not the first time Ukraine’s voiced discontent over foreign channels’ coverage of events in the country. Earlier this year, Kiev asked a French channel to axe a documentary about the role of far-right groups and external forces in the Ukrainian revolution.

RT: How reasonable was the Ukrainian request to the BBC?

Kees van der Pijl of University of Sussex, England

Kees van der Pijl of University of Sussex, England

Kees Van Der Pijl: Very unreasonable, I would say, because it is an obvious civil war. Ukraine has always been a country composed of at least two large components in its population. And the suspension of the rights of the Russian-speaking and the Russia-oriented part in February 2014 triggered what can only be called a civil war, although, of course, not all the people on the other side eventually took up arms.  So, the demand to call it anything else is an unreasonable demand. It is also very unusual to demand a foreign broadcaster to change the language in which they choose to report something.

RT: Ukraine also tried to get a French documentary axed. Why is it actively policing foreign media?

KVDP: Basically, that’s the result of an ideological complex. Once you start seeing the world in terms that are not fact-based but are largely a product of your own imagination, then the world seems at odds with what you think is reality. And I think the people who are in power in Kiev now have become the prisoners of their own fantasies to some extent which are tragic enough if you think of all the victims that have been caused by the fighting and by the violent turn of the original popular movement. It ends in a complete discord between how you think the world is going and what is going on in reality.

RT: The BBC’s use of the term ‘civil war’ seems to be what has upset Ukrainian MPs this time. Why?

KVDP: Well, in Maidan you had a popular movement against the oligarchs in Ukraine that was seized upon by armed groups, which in dialogue with the American ambassador notably and U.S. assistant secretary Victoria Nuland engineered a coup. The idea behind that was that a Ukraine without people who are oriented to Russia, Russian-speaking, etc. would be considered more European and would actually be able to become part of the European sphere of influence, the European economy, etc. That was never going to happen because there are simply too many people, even those who fled, are not enough to reduce the people that are living there to zero.

There are millions of people in Ukraine who are oriented to Russia and who you can’t get rid of, from the perspective of Kiev. So, what they want is to present an authentic internal conflict which is based on very real causes as external aggression from Russia. Although, I guess there must be many ways in which you can criticize Russian policy as well. Basically, it is an internally generated conflict and it has to be recognized as a civil war. Because if you don’t recognize a conflict for what it is, you cannot solve it either.

Read also:
‘Wrong’ Maidan: Ukraine demands that France’s Canal+ TV take hard-hitting documentary off air,, Feb 1, 2016

Ukraine’s authorities have urged a French broadcaster to take a documentary titled ‘Masks of Revolution’ off the air. They claim the movie misrepresents Maidan events, and have a list of their own suggestions for what needs to be shown…

Film ‘Ukraine: The Masks of the Revolution’, by director Paul Moreira

You can watch the February 1, 2016 broadcast of ‘Ukraine: The Masks of the Revolution’ on channel ‘Canal Plus’ here (in French, 54 minutes). You can watch a version sub-titled in English on Vox Populi Evo here. English-language promo and other information on the film is here


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