By Tony Kevin in Canberra / Consortium News
They concern a Radio New Zealand, or RNZ, broadcasting employee — unnamed, but everyone in the small New Zealand broadcasting world will soon know who it is — who has been placed on leave while their professional conduct is investigated. Obviously, a career hangs in the balance.
The malign ghosts of Orwell’s 1984 stalk this story.
This unnamed person in RNZ committed the cardinal sin of “inappropriate editing” of incoming Reuters news feeds on the war in Ukraine to insert “Russian garbage” in the contemptuous words of Paul Thompson, chief executive of RNZ. That is to say, they drew on Russian news sources to insert balancing pro-Russian material to the incoming Western news agency feeds.
The Guardian tells us that in fact accurate information about Ukraine was added to the Reuters copy:
“The articles in question made a range of amendments: adding the word ‘coup’ to describe the Maidan revolution; changing a description of Ukraine’s former ‘pro-Russian president’ to read ‘pro-Russian elected government’; adding references to a ‘pro-western government’ that had ‘suppressed ethnic Russians’; and on several occasions adding references to Russian concerns about ‘neo-Nazi elements’ in Ukraine.”
And more truth was added to the story, The Guardian says:
“In one article, a paragraph was added reading: ‘The Kremlin also said its invasion was sparked by a failure to implement the Minsk agreement peace accords, designed to give Russia speakers autonomy and protection, and the rise of a neo-Nazi element in Ukraine since a coup ousted a Russian-friendly Ukrainian government in 2014.’
Another added that Russia launched its invasion ‘claiming that a US-backed coup in 2014 with the help of neo-Nazis had created a threat to its borders and had ignited a civil war that saw Russian-speaking minorities persecuted.’”
This, it seems, is an offence not to be countenanced any longer in New Zealand. “An RNZ spokesperson, John Barr, said in a statement after the first article came to public attention that ‘RNZ is taking the issue extremely seriously and is investigating how the situation arose,’” the newspaper wrote.
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The Guardian, in its effort to “correct” the story, says: “Ukraine says these claims are discredited Kremlin propaganda … The anti-corruption movement was peaceful and had widespread public support. Yanukovych fled to Russia months later after his security forces shot dead more than 100 unarmed protesters.”
[Consortium News has published numerous stories laying out the facts of the events of 2014, including these two exhaustively corroborated accounts: On the Influence of Neo-Nazism in Ukraine and Evidence of US-Backed Coup in Kiev]
The RNZ executive Thompson was “gutted” to learn what has been going on under his watch. We read that 250 past published articles have been gone through “with a finetooth comb” to investigate and counter such offensive inserted material, and thousands more are being reviewed.
Sixteen such offending articles have been found and warning commentaries added to them. Investigations continue while the staffer remains indefinitely suspended. The responsible minister is being briefed. Clearly these editors have not delved very deeply into the Ukraine story.
Luke Harding’s Involvement
Both Guardian articles carry a tagline that says “Additional reporting by Luke Harding.” This should be a key warning to everyone in New Zealand’s and Australia’s broadcasting world, indeed in the entire English-speaking world.
Harding carries a formidable reputation as an inveterate anti-Russian British journalist with alleged strong links to the U.K. anti-Russian disinformation system and even to MI6, the U.K.’s secret intelligence service.
He was heavily involved in the Julian Assange affair and in the now discredited campaign to label former U.S. President Donald Trump as under Russian control. He is known as a leading Western disinformation warrior.
Normal Editorial Practice
Australian Broadcasting Company journalists edit incoming feeds from Reuters and other wire services all the time. They add context, link to previous stories, add Australian-relevant material.
The problem is, this person in RNZ was adding such context from the “wrong ‘side.’”
The ABC has long been exposed as an obedient servant of the U.S.-dominated Five Eyes intelligence network and runs along approved anti-Russian and anti-Chinese editorial lines. RNZ, by contrast, is still widely respected in New Zealand. But it committed the sin of allowing counter-perspectives to be heard on the responsibility for the present tragic war in Ukraine.
Read the two Guardian articles to see what exactly Harding in London and his colleagues in U.K. disinformation appear to be objecting to. It sends a strong message across the Tasman Sea, from New Zealand to the Australian media world: We watch every word you say and every word you write.
Cancelled for the Same Thought Crimes
The examples of journalistic misconduct identified in the two articles match exactly research and opinions on the historical context and causes of the war in Ukraine and mounting Russia-West tensions that I have been trying to express publicly in Australia as an expert former senior diplomat since publication of my book Return to Moscow in 2017.
As a result I have been cancelled, unpersoned, silenced — dropped down the Australia Broadcasting Company memory hole, never to be allowed on its airwaves again.
An innocuous interview I conducted from Moscow with Paul Barclay for the respected ABC program “Big Ideas” in February 2022 was “disarchived” — yes, you read it right — a few weeks later, under pressure from unidentified critics.
Ukraine is Losing
The war in Ukraine now winds steadily towards its inevitable pro-Russian denouement. Russia clearly has the military edge and this will not change now. Billions of dollars’ worth of supplied U.S./NATO equipment continues to be destroyed in combat.
In suicidal offensives ordered by the doomed Zelensky regime in Kiev, an estimated half a million Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or crippled since February 2022. [Exact casualty figures are very hard to come by]. Many more proxy warriors will die in coming weeks as this brutal war of attrition demanded by the U.S. and NATO continues to destroy what is left of poor Ukraine.
Australians and New Zealanders with naïve faith in the professional integrity of their national broadcasters will continue to be insulated from these tragic truths.
Fortunately, for those who dare to read them, there are now plenty of accessible reliable sources of alternative perspectives on Russia-West relations and the pivotal importance of the war in Ukraine in transforming the world. This world now looks very different from outside the Western laager. We are in the midst of huge global changes.
But, thanks to the likes of Harding and his Anglo-American friends, we won’t find such information anywhere on the ABC or RNZ. We Antipodeans in the colonies will be the last to know.
Tony Kevin is a former Australian senior diplomat, having served as ambassador to Cambodia and Poland, as well as being posted to Australia’s embassy in Moscow. He is the author of six published books on public policy and international relations.