Ukrainian journalist fined for criticizing scandalous French film about Euromaidan to fight back

Anna Chesanovska. Courtesy Image 

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Article by: Kostiantyn Yanchenko

On June 29, the Paris Court ordered Anna Jaillard Chesanovska, a Ukrainian France-based journalist and translator, to pay a EUR 10,000 fine to French journalist and filmmaker Paul Moreira. The money is supposed to be a compensation for moral damage allegedly caused to Moreira by Chesanovska’s op-ed article for Libération in which she criticizes his documentary Ukraine: Les Masques De La Révolution” (“Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution”) for being manipulative and propagandistic in covering right-wing movements in Ukraine. Chesanovska’s lawyer has already applied for an appeal.

In 2015, when Moreira’s film was not yet finished, Chesanovska contributed to its creation by translating two interviews featuring Ukrainian Radical Party MP Ihor Mosiychuk and the founder of the Azov battalion Andriy Biletsky into French. According to Anna, it was the access to those unedited raw materials which allowed her to come up with a critical review on Moreira’s film.

In her article, Chesanovska claims that Moreira has сut and assembled the words of at least two interviewed speakers in a way that distorts their original thoughts and сhanges the general context significantly.

“Thanks to a skillful sleight of hand, with cut-outs of sentences, tragic music, and images of violence, the two men whose interviews I had translated in their entirety, looked like wild beings, obsessed with stupid and malicious nationalist ideas,” she wrote.

Moreira, as well as the сourt of the first instance, regarded Anna’s opinion as slander. In her turn, Chesanovska believes it is a value judgment and the application of the right to freedom of speech.

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Conference-debate: Ukraine / Russia: What solutions to emerge from conflict? With the participation of Anna Jaillard Chesanovska and Quentin Dickinson. Photo: Thomas Bresson

While writing the article, Anna did not have full versions of the interviews to refer to, so she retold the general meaning of discarded words from memory without using quotation marks. As Chesanovska is sure she remembers the quotes precisely, her defense plans to request the court to consider both interviews in their entirety by the time when appeal takes place. “Of course, Moreira can say that he does not have those materials any longer, but it would mean that he destroyed the only existing proof of my statements, and it may play against him,” Chesanovska says.

As Anna is getting ready to appeal the court’s decision, Euromaidan Press gathered the most important facts related to this story.

Anna is not the only person who has criticized Moreira’s movie

Just after “Masks of the Revolution” was first shown publicly on Canal+ on 1 February 2016, 18 French journalists that regularly report on Ukrainian issues, addressed Moreira with an open letter. The authors of the appeal accused the film director of “factual errors, conflicting information, shortcuts and a manipulation of actual events.”

More negative feedback appeared in a Le Monde blog by a different group of authors including writer Galia Ackerman, philosopher Michel Eltchaninoff, former ambassador Philippe de Suremain and others. The signatories of the review found the film’s vision too simplistic and said it plays into Kremlin’s hands by discrediting the image of Ukraine in the world.

In addition, Moreira had been accused of plagiarism by Ukrainian film producer Yuliya Serdiukova. In the interview for Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, Serdiukova stated that Moreira used several video sequences from her film “All Things Ablaze” in his “Masks of the revolution” without having asked for any authorization.

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An image from the Yulia Serdiukova’s documentary “All Things Ablaze.” Photo: Platforma

Anna Chesanovska translated some parts of this interview into French for the Huffington Post. Moreira attempted to use this article against her as well. According to Chesanovska, Moreira declared she translated the words of Serdiukova inaccurately and wanted the court to consider this piece along with that one for Libération during the judgment. However, the court acquitted Chesanovska in this regard, ruling that her translation was adequate.

Probably, the most detailed сritical analysis of Moreira’s film came from StopFake international initiative. The review called Masks of Revolution: When Journalists Lie” is available in several languages including English and French.

Why Chesanovska?

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French television journalist Paul Moreira. Photo: napalete.sk

Despite the numerous critics, Chesanovska is the only person brought to justice for an article about Moreira’s film.

Although it were the abovementioned 18 French journalists who blamed Moreira for “intellectual laziness” and the authors of the Le Monde article who indirectly called him a “useful idiot of Putin’s revenge,” it is Chesanovska who now suffers the most.

“My criticism was one of the most restrained, so I believe Moreira simply picked the most vulnerable target to settle scores with. I am not a full-time journalist, so there is no editorial office behind me, and I am not a member of any trade union as well. Moreover, I am Ukrainian, so, perhaps, he thought that the easiest way was to sue nobody else but me”, Chesanovska says.

Paul Moreira’s point of view

Most of Moreira’s answers to the criticism of his film can be found at the website of Premieres Lignes, a news agency and production company specializing in television investigative journalism founded by Moreira in 2006. There he denies that he committed any factual errors or resorted to manipulation and said he was not surprised to meet a “virulent opposition” while working on the film. He also accuses the Ambassador of Ukraine of putting pressure on Canal+.

As far as Chesanovska’s op-ed article is concerned, Moreira claims she mentions there “false and defamatory statements about the making of the film.” It also looks like Moreira believes Chesanovska can not be impartial when it comes about right-wing movements in Ukraine. To prove it, the plaintiff involved in the case a photo of Anna standing on the background of a red and black flag which is one of the symbols of Ukrainian nationalists.

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Anna Chesanovska (on the right) is standing with her Ukrainian friend Wassyl Slipak. Slipak was a Paris Opera singer and a volunteer soldier of the Right Sector battalion killed in Donbas on June 29, 2016 while defending Ukrainian positions from attacks of the hybrid army.

Russia’s reaction to Moreira’s film

“Masks of the Revolution” was gladly met by the Russian audience, and it is another important detail to mention.

Interestingly, a movie with a similar name – “Kyiv: Masks of revolution” – had been produced by Russia Today TV channel in February 2014, before Moreira started work on his own documentary. It is unknown if Moreira watched the RT film, but it is hard to ignore that there are many similar messages between the films.

The RT movie also exploits the metaphor of “masked revolution” and “masked Ukraine” trying to arouse the viewer’s fear and uncertainty. Both documentaries concentrate on the warlike and armed part of the protesters, not specifying their percentage in the ranks of the creators of the revolution, as well as exaggerating the role of the US in Euromaidan, paying particular attention to the former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

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

Taking into account the fact that Russia Today was repeatedly accused of producing fake and propaganda content, such parallels do not put Moreira’s film in a favorable light.

Even before Moreira’s “Masks of the Revolution” was first broadcast, the film received generous coverage in Russian media, accompanied by comments which discredited Ukraine. This now continues, with Russian trolls supporting Moreira’s film in numerous forums and in social networks. According to Anna, many trolls contacted her personally via Facebook to gloat about her loss in the court of first instance: “The majority of them are Russians, but a few of them are from Ukraine. Anyway, for me it is sign that I am doing everything right,” she says.

In his turn, Moreira also claims he is subjected to threats in social networks.

The appeal of the court decision is planned in one and a half to two years, so both Chesanovska and Moreira have enough time to prepare for the next round of trial. For now it is clear that the dispute between Chesanovska and Moreira has long ceased to be personal, and the final result will have impact on the perception of the role of right-wing movements in Euromaidan.

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Edited by: Alya Shandra

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