BBG Watch Commentary

Lead news item today (Nov. 7, 2013) on BBC Russian Service homepage deals with Greenpeace prisoners in Russia.
Lead news item today (Nov. 7, 2013) on BBC Russian Service homepage deals with Greenpeace prisoners in Russia.

The BBC Russian Service has paid close attention on its news website to British nationals held in a Russian jail in Murmansk after their arrest during a peaceful attempt by Greenpeace activists to board a Russian oil platform in the Arctic in an ecological protest in late September. The BBC English news website also has numerous posts on the British Greenpeace activists and interviews with their family members in the UK

The Voice of America (VOA) English Service, and to a large degree until very recently also the VOA Russian Service, have paid practically no attention to the two Americans jailed in Murmansk or to their families in the United States. After BBG Watch pointed it out, the Russian Service improved its coverage considerably.

One person reported that on October 30 the VOA Russian Service interviewed Pavel Litvinov. He is a famous Soviet-era political prisoner and the father of Greenpeace activist Dimitri Litvinov who is being held in a Russian jail.

But the interview, or any news report based on the interview, have never made it onto the VOA Russian news website or its Facebook page. It is also not listed separately on the VOA Russian YouTube channel. For all practical purposes, even if it was aired, it does not exist online and never made it into VOA Russian or VOA English news.

The BBC Russian Service posted its audio interview with Pavel Litvinov online on October 29 with a short introduction that included material of definite news value.

Гринписовца наказали за письмо к жене – Greenpeace Member Punished For The Letter to His Wife (TEXT and AUDIO in Russian), BBC Russian Service, October 29, 2013

“Swedish-American activist and human rights defender, son of Pavel Litvinov, was punished when letters to his wife and family were found in his cell.

Dimitri Litvinov, who was arrested after the Greenpeace protest at a Gazprom oil platform in the Arctic, was charged with disorderly conduct .

In the BBC program Pavel Litvinov spoke with Seva Novgorodtsev about his concerns about Dimitri’s fate, his son’s letters seized in jail, and how Dimitri became a Greenpeace activist in the United States, and later in Russia.”

This or similar information about Dimitri Litvinov or any interview with Pavel Litvinov that VOA may have conducted cannot be found on the VOA Russian Service website. A site search produced only one short reference to Dimitri Litvinov and no references to another American prisoner, the Greenpeace ship’s captain Peter Willcox or his family. We could find no references on the VOA Russian website to Pavel Litvinov’s op-ed in The Washington Post and an article about him in The New York Times. We also found no references to interviews with Peter Willcox’s wife on CNN and FOX.

While the VOA Russian Service did improve its Greenpeace coverage after BBG Watch published critical articles, we have not noted yet any significant improvement in Greenpeace coverage on the VOA English news website. It again posted today a Greenpeace-Russia-related news item from Reuters rather than offer original reporting from Washington or from Moscow.

These Reuters news reports generally make no mention of the jailed Americans or any U.S. official attempts to get them released.

Earlier, an original VOA news report included unchallenged accusations against Greenpeace from a pro-Putin Russian politician and a highly misleading suggestion that the American legal system might deal just as harshly with peaceful protesters as the courts in Putin’s Russia.