BBG Watch Commentary

Digital Journal LogoFormer Voice of America (VOA) journalist and executive Ted Lipien noted in articles in Digital Journal how BBC, Polish TV and public media outlets in other countries report widely on the plight of their nationals who are jailed in Russia after taking part in a peaceful Greenpeace protest at a Russian oil platform in the Arctic six weeks ago.

Following BBG Watch reporting, these articles also point out that while other U.S. and international media outlets pay close attention to what is happening to their nationals in a Russian jail in Murmansk, the Voice of America not only did not bother to interview family members of the two Americans who were jailed but posted a news report with unchallenged accusations against Greenpeace from a pro-Putin politician.

A VOA report even suggested that the U.S. legal system would deal just as harshly with peaceful Greenpeace protesters as courts in Putin’s Russia. The suggestion was completely wrong and misleading as such a protest would be considered trespassing in the U.S. and most likely subject only to a civil misdemeanor fine. Protesters would be entailed to bail and would most likely be released.

Wife of Polish Greenpeace activist visits husband in Russian jail, Ted Lipien, Digital Journal, November 6, 2013.

Op-Ed: Voice of America news report sides with Putin against Greenpeace, Ted Lipien, Digital Journal, November 5, 2013.

The main English news website of the Voice of America (VOA) has had no reports on two American citizens who are among 30 Greenpeace activists detained in a Russian jail since September. VOA has not interviewed any of the family members in the United States and has not reported on their efforts or any official U.S. government attempts to get these two Americans and other Greenpeace activists released.

There was a recent op-ed in The Washington Post written by Pavel Litvinov, the father of Dimitri (Dima) Litvinov who is being held in Russia. Pavel Litvinov is a famous Soviet dissident and political prisoner. His son has American citizenship. The New York Times posted a lengthy article. CNN and Fox interviewed the wife of the Greenpeace ship’s captain, Peter Willcox, who is also an American citizen. Public Radio International (PRI) had a interview with Pavel Litvinov.

The Voice of America has done no such reporting. VOA did not mention any of the U.S. media articles and interviews and did not conduct its own. Instead, VOA posted a few short news items on the incident, mostly from Reuters, of which only one even mentioned that two of the jailed Greenpeace activists are Americans.

Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk, wife of jailed Polish Greenpeace activist Tomasz Dziemianczuk, being interviewed by Polish TV after visiting her husband in jail in Murmansk, Russia. Source: Polish TV.
Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk, wife of jailed Polish Greenpeace activist Tomasz Dziemianczuk, being interviewed by Polish TV after visiting her husband in jail in Murmansk, Russia. Source: Polish TV.

On Wednesday, November 6, Polish TV interviewed Natalia Bajorek-Dziemianczuk, the wife of a jailed Polish Greenpeace activist, Tomasz Dziemianczuk, immediately after she was allowed a short visit with her husband at a Murmansk jail.

VOA did not even bother to find U.S. family members of jailed Americans. Some of them live on the East coast of the United States, not too far from Washington, DC, where VOA has its headquarters.

BBC had more than a dozen individual news reports about British members of the Greenpeace team jailed in Russia and their families in the UK. The Voice of America had nothing even close to this kind of reporting, even though VOA is 100 % funded by U.S. taxpayers. BBC is also a public broadcaster/media outlet.

Even BBC reported that “(American) Greenpeace ship captain was denied bail in Russia hearing, BBC, October 14 2013. A Russian court has rejected bail requests from the American captain of a Greenpeace ship and two other foreign activists involved in a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, a BBC report said.

Some more examples of BBC reporting that the Voice of America should have done but did not do, choosing instead to post five reports in two days on the royal christening in Great Britain, a report on finishing schools in Switzerland and a VOA report on a zombie convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Detainee’s parents tell of son’s strength, BBC, November 3, 2013. The parents of a London video journalist held in a Russian prison talk about their son’s strength throughout his ordeal. Kieron Bryan, from Peckham, London, was among 30 people arrested after Russian security forces boarded a Greenpeace ship on 18 September.

Greenpeace prisoner ‘feeling used’, BBC, November 2, 2013. Russell Bryan, brother of Kieron, said the situation has left his sibling in a ‘state of shock.’ He said: “Kieron is very confused and angry, and he feels like he’s being used. His conditions aren’t particularly great. He’s been on his own in a cell for 23 hours a day, for the past six weeks.”

Family hope to visit Greenpeace detainee Kieron Bryan, BBC, October 30, 2013. The family of a British journalist detained after Russian security forces boarded a Greenpeace ship are planning to fly out to visit him.

Exeter mother’s relief as Greenpeace crew charges reduced, BBC, October 23, 2013. The mother of one of the Greenpeace crew being held in a Russian prison says great progress has been made after charges are reduced.

Greenpeace families meet Foreign Office officials, BBC, October 16, 2013. The families of six Britons arrested after a Greenpeace protest at an offshore oil drilling rig have met Foreign Office officials.