Lackluster journalism on Russo-Ukrainian war from PBS and Pulitzer Center

Nick Schifrin's reporting about the Russian invasion in Ukraine carries mistranslations, significant mistakes and critical omissions. (Image: video screen capture)

Nick Schifrin's reporting about the Russian invasion in Ukraine carries mistranslations, significant mistakes and critical omissions. (Image: video screen capture) 

Featured, Op-ed

Article by: Andrij V. Dobriansky, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America

On July 5, the PBS NewsHour, the nation’s longest running nightly news broadcast, aired a report prepared by Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grantees Nick Schifrin and Zach Fannin, both well-traveled journalists, as part of a series highlighting the “tensions between NATO and Russia.” Both PBS NewsHour and the journalists themselves refer to this series as “Fault Lines,” a geological term perhaps suggesting a natural order, although there is nothing natural at all about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After viewing the first segment of the Fault Lines series, our office received numerous alerts as to the biased nature of the presentation. Indeed, after viewing the segment ourselves, we responded on behalf of the Ukrainian American community with a letter summarizing the following inaccuracies and omissions:

  1. No mention of the nearly 2 million displaced persons who have fled the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia for their own safety, some having been specifically targeted;
  2. No mention that those unfortunate to have remained under occupation are under a constant barrage of Russian disinformation and propaganda;
  3. No mention of the clear documentary evidence proving the existence of the Russian military operating in the occupied areas of Eastern Ukraine, even though the report airs that there are “claims” made about “thousands of Russian soldiers”;
  4. Mistranslating at least one interview subject, who specifically voiced regrets when asked, “Has it been worth it?”

Furthermore, this entire segment was produced and edited to omit one crucial word – INVASION. Nowhere in the 11 minute report focusing on the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia was the word “invasion” used. For this omission, we are demanding an explanation from PBS NewsHour producers as to exclusion of the only possible description for the Russian Federation not only blatantly violating the UN Charter with its military actions in Ukraine, but also the Helsinki Final Act, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, and at least 2 bilateral agreements between Russia and Ukraine, not least of which was the so-called “Friendship Treaty.”

Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour, introducing Nick Schifrin's Russo-Ukrainian war segment marked by mistranslations, factual mistakes and omissions (Image: video screen capture)

Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour, introducing Nick Schifrin’s Russo-Ukrainian war segment marked by mistranslations, factual mistakes and omissions (Image: video screen capture)

The reason we are addressing PBS NewsHour specifically, is that a companion piece to the Newshour‘s report, misleadingly titled “Desire to break free from Ukraine keeps devastated Donetsk fighting,” was published by USA Today after being produced for Public Radio International. Although focusing on the same subject matter, USA Today decided to focus on the horror of Russians enlisting child soldiers in Ukraine which was documented in the PBS report, and titled their version of the report “Soviet-style youth squads are making a comeback in eastern Ukraine.”

Both reports by Nick Schifrin contain misleading and factually incorrect statements, not least of which the repeated description of Ukrainian territory militarily occupied by Russia as not of Ukraine, even though the world has recognized this border territory as Ukrainian such since at least 1945 when Ukraine signed the UN Charter as one of the original member states.

In addition to the crime of enlisting child soldiers not being called out, nor not addressing the illegal status of a Russian spetsnaz soldier interviewed on camera, the report airing on July 5 finished with Judy Woodruff claiming that on July 6, “Nick Schifrin continues his reporting from the other side.”

Boris Yeltsin (Russia), Bill Clinton (USA), Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine), John Major (UK) sign the Budapest Memorandum with security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. (Image: AP)

Boris Yeltsin (Russia), Bill Clinton (USA), Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine), John Major (UK) sign the Budapest Memorandum with security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. (Image: AP)

The report which aired on July 6 did not, in fact, report on the “other side” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Beginning with Judy Woodruff’s introduction, we were told that the July 6 report would move us “inside Ukraine.” Again, this in contrast to the fact that NO INTERNATIONAL BODY HAS RECOGNIZED RUSSIA’S MILITARY OCCUPATION OF UKRAINE AS A CHANGE OF INTERNATIONAL BORDERS.

After focusing most of the report on political and governmental reforms in Odesa, a city 350 miles away from Donetsk, Nick Schifrin returns to the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory along the eastern border, where, yet again, the conflict is portrayed as simply Ukrainians fighting amongst each other. Were this actually a conflict between several thousand radicalized secessionists and what now stands as one of the largest militaries in Europe, there would be no prolonged hostilities. Instead, as nation after nation has attested to, Russia crossed its border with Ukraine, bombing areas of Ukraine from the Russian side of the border, and then deployed significant numbers of military personnel and equipment inside Ukraine to maintain control over a small sliver of land.

putin with a clubUnfortunately for our fellow Americans, this misleading series continues tonight with a segment filmed in Estonia. If the summary listed on the website of the Pulitzer Center is to be believed, the people of Estonia may end up being characterized as irrationally provoking “tensions” with Russia.

Therefore, we call upon our members and fellow supporters of Ukraine to contact PBS NewsHour and express directly their opinion of this reporting.

Again, while I appreciate PBS Newshour airing a segment on Russia’s war on Ukraine, which is regularly ignored by US news outlets, it is important to add relevant context the reporting and ensure that the translating is done accurately. As a representative of Ukrainians in America, I would welcome the opportunity to offer that context in person, as I have many times over the past 2 years: http://bit.ly/1TeKDkO

With regards,

Andrij V. Dobriansky
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA.org)
203 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
www.facebook.org/UCCA.org


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Edited by: A. N.
Source: UCCA.org

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