French reporters to film director: “Ukraine – Masks of the Revolution” slanders our vocation

Announcement of a film by Paul Moreira “Ukraine – the Masks of Revolution”  published on pltv.fr

Announcement of a film by Paul Moreira “Ukraine – the Masks of Revolution” published on pltv.fr 

2016/02/12 • Analysis & Opinion

The documentary “Ukraine the Masks of Revolution” was broadcast February 1 on French television in a Special Investigation on Canal+.  The broadcast provoked numerous reactions, including those addressed in an open letter to the film director by eighteen journalists.

All of them have been working in Ukraine, gaining first-hand familiarity with the events that have been taking place there since the beginning of the “Maidan Revolution” until the present time.

“We are reporters working regularly in Ukraine. Some of us are permanent correspondents in Kyiv and in the wider region.  Others are regular special correspondents.  Using print media, radio, television and photography, we have been on the ground covering the Maidan Revolution, the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

We concurrently focus dozens of pairs of eyes and ears on these events, bringing to bear our notebooks, pens, and cameras. Many of us are Russian-speaking, others are both Russian and Ukrainian speakers.  But without distinction we are journalists first and foremost.

Read also: Homophobic Stalinist reiterates Russian propaganda for French documentary

On Monday, February 1st, we were shocked to view the documentary by Paul Moreira entitled “Ukraine – the Masks of Revolution,” broadcast by Canal+, in its Special Investigation series—although it was not the thesis of the film that disturbed us.  We as a group regularly cover extreme-right groups in Ukraine.  We have reported that the war has made them more virulent, heavily armed, and that it constitutes a danger to the future of the country.

No. What profoundly disturbed us in this film is its lack of perspective on the complex issues rooted in the depths of Russian-Ukrainian relations.  The confusion that results is exacerbated by a number of factual errors, by conflicting information, and also by shortcuts and a manipulation of actual events.

We cannot remain silent over undated images from YouTube, taken of torchlight marches of neo-Nazis occurring subsequent to the Maïdan protests, being inserted into video depictions of actual events.  Or of mischaracterizations of the partisan affiliations of key figures in the demonstrations.

The confusion that results is exacerbated by a number of factual errors, by conflicting information, and also by shortcuts and a manipulation of actual events.

We also deplore the documentary’s inappropriate treatment of the linguistic questions that have been faced in Ukraine.  These questions have certainly proven to be delicate ones on a number of occasions.  But Ukraine is one of the most bilingual countries in Europe.  Through an apparent lack of knowledge, Mr. Moreira makes a dramatic exaggeration when he refers to ‘Russians’ or ‘Ukrainians of Russian origin’ as the inhabitants of a country where national identity is not defined solely by ethnic-linguistic affiliation, at least not in 2016.

How can we take seriously the controversy over the use of the Ukrainian or Russian languages when representatives of Ukrainian nationalist movements answer Mr. Moreira’s questions in the language of Pushkin?  Most Ukrainians speak both Ukrainian and Russian.  And, since 2004, the historic east/west division of the country no longer serves to divide Ukrainian and Russian speakers.  In fact, Mr. Moreira is replicating a phenomenon he himself denounced in an interview published in l’Humanite: namely writing history ‘in black and white’ terms.

We are also left aghast at Mr. Moreira’s presentation of the annexation of Crimea.  He simply asserts that, ‘After the revolution, the Crimean population voted their loyalty to Russia by referendum in great numbers.’  In so stating, Mr. Moreira inexplicably failed to present the dubious context in which the referendum was conducted, including any reference to the extremely short notice on which the vote was held, as well as the deployment in Crimea of Russian military forces during the time the referendum was conducted.

The most notable legerdemain of this film is to portray the extremist Ukrainian paramilitary groups as the prime mover of the Ukrainian revolution.  These were mostly small, self-drafted groups of citizens.  Their numbers increased and their presence expanded significantly after the Maidan Revolution, in reaction to the Russian invasion of Crimea and the separatist uprising in the east of the country.

Most of the phenomena described by Mr. Moreira are a result of the war in Donbas, a hybrid war which has caused 10.000 deaths since April, 2014.  However, this conflict is only mentioned in passing.  This is a major fault of the film. The Ukrainian volunteer battalions, extremely diverse sociologically, were indeed composed in part of radical nationalist elements.  That is no secret.  Heterogeneous, complex to analyze, these groups mirror a Ukrainian society confronted with war.

In his documentary, Mr. Moreira ignores the fact that all of these events were reported on, studied, and documented by the media in France as well as the rest of the international press.

Many people worry about the lack of State control over these groups.  This problem has been identified by several reports from ONG international and by numerous reports in the French press.  Although the film expresses interest in these groups, Mr. Moreira never mentions the efforts of the Ukrainian government, especially during 2015, to disarm them or to subsume them into government forces.

Contrary to Mr. Moreira’s assertions, we, as journalists deployed in Ukraine, dealt with these issues in our coverage of events there.  We realized that these are not phenomena that can be seized by the horns, or that can be manipulated by Ukrainian authorities.  But, based on the facts, we wholeheartedly reject the notion that power over Ukrainian affairs was seized in February of 2014 by paramilitary groups controlled by the extreme right.

Perhaps the most important segment of this film is the one dedicated to that terrible day on May 2 2014, when bloody clashes arose in Odesa between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian demonstrators, and which resulted in the dreadful death, by fire, of 42 victims, most of whom were pro-Russian.  After almost two years, the Ukrainian judicial system has still not uncovered the truth surrounding this tragedy.  And, contrary to Mr. Moreira’s narration, this is not the only drama over the last two years that has not yet been clarified by Ukrainian officials.

In his documentary, Mr. Moreira ignores the fact that all of these events were reported on, studied, and documented by the media in France as well as the rest of the international press.  For example, over the past two years, we ourselves have been studying the transformation of this major and misunderstood European country. And, at the same time, we should acknowledge that an active war has, during this time frame, been conducted between two countries

Many of us journalists feel that this documentary undermines, and even slanders, our vocation.  Normally we appreciate productions of the Premières Lignes for their serious treatment of issues that are important to society.  That’s why it was so surprising to see the irresponsible, and even dangerous, intellectual laziness exhibited by this film.”

Signatures :

Ksenia Bolchakova
Yves Bourdillon
Gulliver Cragg
Marc Crepin
Régis Genté
Laurent Geslin
Sébastien Gobert
Paul Gogo
Emmanuel Grynszpan
Capucine Granier-Deferre
Alain Guillemoles
James Keogh
Céline Lussato
Elise Menand
Stéphane Siohan
Olivier Tallès
Elena Volochine
Rafael Yaghobzadeh

Translated by: Natalia Fursova
Source: http://teleobs.nouvelobs.com/

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  • Brent

    Well said. I’m glad to see knowing and informed Ukrainians reaching out to Moreira to explain reality and not his Russian appeasement propaganda

  • Dirk Smith

    This is the inevitable cheap false mongol-muscovite response to a hopeful Oscar-winning documentary ‘Winter on Fire.’ The mongol-muscovite attack on truth and justice continues.

  • Artem Volchek

    Mr. Gobert, I have already replied to your half-hearted attempt to do the same of what was done here on the most reliable source of EuroMaidan Press, but here comes a bit more extended reply, which is addressed obviously to one of your more fierce, but yet like-minded colleague:

    I have to say, I reacted to the Ukrainian nationalist speaking in Pushkin’s language as well, which yet again displayed the extent of double standards that are applied among those who dare calling themselves patriots of Ukraine. But I assume in this case, there were simply interpretation/translation problems issues, which “forced” him to speak Russian, but this is merely a technical issue. On the other hand, I am seriously starting to doubt that the abovementioned article was indeed complied by a group of French/Western or somebody else. Especially taking in consideration the neutrality of this source.

    Azov founded after the Maidan events ended – that is indeed true, even though their starting date is rather irrelevant in this matter, which you cannot say about their “causes” or “motives”. However, far-right radicals taking up weapons and founding armed groups i.e. Azov, Pravy Sektor is also sort of true. In fact, he was mistaken in one point – the volunteer battalions do not take orders from anyone who is under the command of Ministry of defense or Ministry of interior affairs, as they literally make up their own rules. And that point might just emphasize the extent of their lawlessness, in case one would somehow avoid observing simple details when he was interviewing the Pravy Sektor, Azov commanders, leaders – they could barely make up a civilized sentence or two, let alone explaining reasons to why paramilitary groups were allowed taking up weapons and dictating their rules even to the people on “their side of the conflict”. Even SS, the guys they are so eagerly trying to imitate, were not equally fanatical, blinded, mentally deranged. And SS were limited by actual orders and structure, which obviously does not apply for the volunteer battalions in this case. Other than that – there are sadly plenty of parallels between modern day Ukraine and the dawn of the Third Reich. However, Azov members were indeed present at Maidan and they were indeed formed there and during those events. So, I do not quite see how it is a terrible mistake saying that Azov flags were waiving over Maidan. They, and their leaders are from and because of Maidan. Period. Imagine far-right Russians taking up weapons after Odessa events and doing whatever they are pleased to in Odessa and Odessa region, including disobeying any authorities, for instance. Just a parallel thought.

    Furthermore, I am must say I am quite concerned over the fact that several foreign journalists calmly state that “it is no secret” that there are existing, far-right organizations that are operational in many of Ukraine’s region, and I am even afraid to ask: and this is… fine/normal/adequate according your standards of living in a peaceful European society? Especially a society that wants so eagerly to be a part of that peaceful Europe? Even if it would be half way true that the French or the entire Western press puts emphasize on the far-right organizations in their reports, then how can you simply say that “many people worry” and “this problem has been identified”. Are you, as a journalist, but more as a human being suggesting to turn a blind eye on these “identified problems”?

    On Crimean referendum, I also reacted in that way that I firstly noticed the fact that he avoids telling the entire picture. He simply portrayed a very shortened version of what was probably displayed on pro-Russian media during and after the Crimea referendum events. My guess would be that he did not focus on Crimea to begin with. And he also was speaking as if Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainian is the same thing during the entire movie. Which is not entirely correct, but it is not far off reality either. Because, as many people are aware of – since escalation of this conflict, there were people of both Russian and Ukrainian decent on BOTH sides of the conflict, on all levels of it. There are Russians (and Russian speakers) on the Ukrainian side of the war, and vice versa. But I assume such details are known to anyone who has lived in those former Soviet countries, let alone people that are from ex-USSR.

    But now that we started the topic of objectivity, and since you mention Russian troops in Crimea, you may as well mention the amount of allowed troops in Crimea according to agreements between Russian and Ukrainian governments prior to all this mess? Perhaps it is also worth mentioning the moods of simple people of Crimea at that time as well? For the sake of objectivity, that is.

    Anyway, my point is that Mr. Moreira probably did not put too much weight on neutrality in his investigation, as he obviously intended to show first and foremost horrors of Odessa events and origins of far-right organizations in Ukraine in general.

    And of course, I would also perhaps refrain from going to Minister of Economics in order to obtain war related answers. Especially if I could openly chose from schedules of different ministers at any time… but I am not sure how easy/difficult it might be to get hold of a Minister of… anything, despite being a journalist representing a European channel.

    Finally, I would like to humbly ask to specify one point of yours. You’ve mentioned: “a number of factual errors, by conflicting information, and also by shortcuts and a manipulation of actual events..” In this point, could you please be more specific on this very point? What exactly did you mean by “many more fallacies”? From what I could observe – the journalist team went around the country gathering data, asking very unpleasant questions (mainly on the Ukrainian side though, I might add). Getting very loose answers to his very straight-forward questions, but STILL portraying a more truthful picture than what most Western media showed for the past 2 years. I still have yet to see someone conducting specified, comprehensive criticism without using words “territorial integrity”, “Putin” or “Russians” every 7 or 8 sentences. And perhaps, you might be able to answer the questions left unanswered by those who were interviewed by Moreira?

    Almost everyone shown in this documentary, from the scandalous YouTube “star” who’s IQ is lower than my heels, to people with real power in real Western political/military institutions, such as the US military nobs provided quite vague answers. If any. Of course such “hotshots” as Nuland and the now-hand-shakable Tyagnibok did not provide even an attempt of depicting themselves as decent, well intentioned people, as they simply refused to be interviewed. Oh, I wonder why that happened. Could it be because their deeds are only good & conscience is clearer than that of an infant?

    Really looking forward to receiving a reply from a journalist, who truly knows no rest until full objectivity in Ukrainian press is achieved. Even though I sincerely doubt that any reply would occur, anyhow.

    PS. History has well enough shown us all that there has to be more than one side of the guilt, when it comes to armed conflicts, especially those that bear resemblance of a civil war. Only because you disagree with a journalist on a topic, it does not necessarily have to mean that he does not follow fundamental journalist principles. One might question your willingness to highlight events in an objective manner based on the abovementioned though, but I will leave you to criticizing Monsieur Moreira and his documentary, as it appears to be meaning of your present “life”.