BBG Watch Commentary

Photos of Tetyana Chornovol on RT (Russia Today)
Photos of Tetyana Chornovol on RT (Russia Today)

Despite many new details emerging, as well as videos, photos and protests from U.S. officials, international organizations, and pro-democracy groups in Ukraine in connection with the brutal beating of Ukrainian journalist Tetyana Chornovol, the Voice of America English website still has not published any updates on the incident or U.S., Ukrainian, and international reactions. The initial and only report from Reuters on the story on the VOA English website was left un-updated for nearly two days.

[UPDATE: Late Thursday evening, the VOA English website finally posted, not its own original report, but another report from Reuters, which included comments from State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. The Reuters report with a State Department statement was a number 8 news story on the VOA English homepage. It was placed behind such non-breaking news reports as “Climate Change Real, Human-Caused” and “Further Battles on Same-Sex Marriage Expected in 2014.”

One of the many problems with using Reuters reports instead of generating original news coverage is that VOA cannot change or append Reuters reports with new information. As of 10PM ET Thursday, the VOA Russian Service still has not updated its online report from yesterday on the beating of the journalist from and is not reporting on the State Department statement or any other U.S. reactions.

The VOA Russian Service lead news report, featured prominently at the top of its homepage late Thursday evening, is an exclusive interview with American conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan, titled, “Vladimir Putin — New Leader of the Global Conservative Movement?” – Владимир Путин – новый лидер мирового консервативного движения?, VOA Russian Service.

Voice of America Russian Service quotes Patrick Buchanan as saying that "Putin defends traditional values."  The VOA Russian Service also quotes Buchanan as saying:   "I think that Ukrainians should make their own choices without interference from the United States.  I do not approve of U.S. attempts to intervene in the dispute ."
Voice of America Russian Service quotes Patrick Buchanan as saying that “Putin defends traditional values.” The VOA Russian Service also quotes Buchanan as saying: “I think that Ukrainians should make their own choices without interference from the United States. I do not approve of U.S. attempts to intervene in the dispute .”

What Buchanan has to say about Putin is interesting. (He “welcomes ‘traditionalism’ of the Russian president and says that while “progressives win in the United States and in the West, but in the world as a whole, [their victory] is not so obvious.” He is also quoted as saying that “events in Ukraine – is not our [U.S.] business.”) But this lengthy report on Pat Buchanan’s views, placed in the top news section of the website, seems to us more like a commentary rather than anything having to do with breaking news stories, such as the attack on the journalist in Ukraine and its aftermath.

A Russian Service correspondent in Moscow ​​spoke, however, about attacks on journalists in Ukraine with Russian political scientist Andrei Okara, but the interview posted on the website, less prominently than the interview with Buchanan, did not refer to any U.S. statements or provided any new details. The VOA Russian Service report on Pat Buchanan’s views has over 3,000 words. The un-updated VOA Russian Service report on the fate of Tetyana Chornovol had 142 words. The un-updated VOA English Reuters report on the Ukrainian journalist had 228 words. END UPDATE ]

BBC, RT (Russia Today), The New York Times, and nearly all international and U.S. media were posting new information on the beating of the journalist and updating their initial reports many hours earlier during the day, as well as yesterday. The original report from Reuters on the VOA website did not change at all on Wednesday and for most of the day today — not until late Thursday evening

German international media outlet DW (Deutsche Welle) reports today (Dec. 26) that “Attack on reporter Chornovil rallies anti-government feeling in Ukraine.” Protesters in Ukraine have called for the resignation of Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko after an attack on a journalist and activist — something that DW and other international media were reporting all day today, but not VOA English News.

The beating of the Ukrainian journalist is still one of the top news stories on the DW website. DW reported that only hours earlier, Chornovil – who was taking part in the DW project “Alle Macht Dem Volk” (All Power to the People) – had published a story about a lavish suburban home she claimed was being built for Zakharchenko, a close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The story of her brutal beating, however, had disappeared early Thursday from the VOA English homepage and could no longer be found during part of the day even in VOA’s “Europe News” section, until a new Reuters story appeared. That did not happen until late Thursday evening.

Other international media outlets posted their own original reports and kept updating them both on Wednesday and Thursday. The story remained Wednesday and during part of the day Thursday one of the lead news on the BBC homepage yesterday and stayed there for many hours in addition to BBC’s special profile piece on Tetyana Chornovol. It remained the second lead news story in BBC’s “Europe” section.

Even Reuters updated its report a few times many hours ago without any response from VOA English News to change the outdated Reuters report on the VOA website. Consequently, many VOA language services also kept the outdated report on their websites.

See: Attack on reporter restores passion to Ukraine demonstrations, by Jack Stubbs, Reuters, Dec. 26, 2013.

RT (Russia Today) had its Tetyana Chornovol report on the homepage, but only for a few hours. Usually RT would keep on its homepage for many hours or even days any other news report of this kind, but we have observed a definite pattern to quickly downgrade news on the RT site dealing with the anti-government opposition in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the RT report was extensive, up-to-date, and relatively objective in this case.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) posted and later updated its report in French on the beating of Tetyana Chornovol.

See: Ukraine: l’agression d’une journaliste à Kiev soulève l’indignation, RFI, Article publié le : mercredi 25 décembre 2013 à 20:05 – Dernière modification le : jeudi 26 décembre 2013 à 14:19.

The RFI report shows that is was first published on Dec. 25 at 8:05PM and last modified on Dec. 26 at 2:19PM. The Voice of America English website does not show at what time a news report is posted or modified. If it did, its failures to post and update news in a timely manner would become painfully obvious to online visitors, who in any case give VOA English reports very few Facebook “Likes” and Tweets (usually no more than a dozen or two) compared to hundreds and thousands that BBC, RT, and Al Jazeera reports get regularly.

A search of the VOA English website shows that it still has a short and outdated Reuters report on the incident, posted more than 24 hours ago yesterday (Dec. 25.). The report does not include a statement from the Ukrainian police that they had identified three suspects and took two of them into custody over the brutal crime, one of many against journalists and pro-democracy activists who report on and criticize government corruption.

While the VOA Ukrainian Service has done an outstanding job covering the incident, reporting on a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and protests by human rights NGOs in Europe and in the United States, the VOA English website still has no information about these new developments.

Most of VOA’s more than 40 language services also have not updated their news on the incident. Not even the VOA Russian Service has updated its website with the latest information on the beating of Tetyana Chornovol or provided U.S. and international reactions to the incident.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) Russian Service, on the other hand, does report on European and U.S. protests in connection with the beating of the Ukrainian journalists and quotes from the statement of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

See: Запад осудил избиение украинской журналистки Татьяны Чорновил, RFI Russian Service, Dec. 25, 2013.

That RFI would provide such U.S. official reactions to a news story, but not the VOA Russian Service and other VOA language services except the Ukrainian Service, is astounding.

The VOA English site and almost all other VOA foreign language sites have not shown a video of the the attackers’ car chasing the victim’s car, or a video showing the savagely beaten journalist, which can be seen in extensive and updated reports on RT (formerly Russia Today), and BBC.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) language services are offering up-to-date and extensive coverage of the beating of Tetyana Chornovol and reactions in Ukraine and elsewhere. Both RFE/RL and VOA are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency in Washington, DC with a bipartisan board in charge of all U.S.-funded civilian news and information outreach overseas. The agency’s website says that “the BBG’s mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”

At the last BBG meeting earlier this month, BBG Governor Matt Armstrong sharply questioned VOA Director David Ensor about news reporting deficiencies at VOA.

The Voice of America Charter, which is public law in the United States, says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350)” The Voice of America has repeatedly failed to observe this obligations by not reporting on U.S. reactions, both officials and unofficial, to a number of major news developments in the U.S. and abroad, or offering only superficial coverage (often one or two sentences) and usually a day or more late.

While the VOA English website offers minimal coverage,The New York Times also has an extensive report by David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow with links to photographs, Tetyana Chornovol’s blog and video: Journalist Is Beaten in Latest Attack on Ukrainian Opposition, David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times, Dec. 25, 2013.

WARNING: Graphic video

The YouTube video showing severely beaten Tetyana Chornovol, which VOA English News and VOA English website failed to use, has more than 249,400 views as of 3PM ET, December 26. RT (Russia Today) has posted the video in its news report Outrage as Ukrainian opposition journalist found roughly beaten near Kiev, RT, Dec. 25, 2013.

RT is also showing images taken from user Tetyana Chornovil and Youtube user Euromaidan2013.

The “Feature Video” on the VOA English website is: “Volunteers Bring Holiday Cheer to LA’s Poor, Homeless.” It was posted on December 24 and not changed since then.

VOA English News has had nothing on the statements of Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevicius and the EU Delegation to Ukraine.

The Sydney Morning Herald not only reports today “How journalist Tetyana Chornovil became the face of Ukraine struggle,” but even quotes from the U.S. Embassy Kyiv statement condemning the beating of the journalist.

CNN reported extensively on the story and noted the U.S. Embassy Kyiv condemnation of the attack:

“On Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Kiev sharply condemned the beating in a statement. It called for an investigation, ‘which unlike previous such incidents must result in those responsible being held fully accountable under the law.'”

The CNN online report was updated today at 6:02 PM EST, December 26, 2013. At 8:06 PM, CNN again updated its report to include comments from a State Department spokeswoman:

“We call on the government of Ukraine to uphold its (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) commitments and ensure respect for human rights, including fundamental freedoms of expression … ,” Jen Psaki said. “We urge the government of Ukraine to send an unequivocal message that violence against critics of the government and those who are working towards a modern, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine will not be tolerated.”

Despite the holidays, international media continue to focus on the story, but not the Voice of America. The VOA Ukrainian Service seems to be the only one among VOA’s 45 language services providing continuing coverage of the incident and updating its reports, as it has done throughout the recent crisis in Ukraine despite limited resources.

The Ukrainian Service reported on the statement of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and a statement from human rights NGO Freedom House. The service is also reporting on protests in Ukraine in connection with the beating of Tetyana Chornovil.

See: ‘Дім Свободи’ вважає побиття Чорновол ‘актом залякування’, VOA Ukrainian Service, Dec. 26, 2013.

МВС пікетували з вимогою розслідувати побиття Чорновол, VOA Ukrainian Service, Dec. 26, 2013.

Заява Посольства США в Україні стосовно нещодавніх нападів на журналістів та активістів, VOA Ukrainian Service on U.S. Embassy Kyiv Statement, Dec. 25, 2013.

Freedom House on Attacks on Ukrainian Journalist

Tweets and Facebook “Likes” for Ukrainian Journalist Beating News Reports as of 6:30PM ET, Dec. 25, 2013

1. Ukraine activist Chornovol’s beating causes outrage, BBC with video and 2 photos – 237 Tweets, 264 Facebook “Likes”

2. Journalist Savagely Assaulted In Ukraine, RFE/RL with video – 162 Tweets, 51 Facebook “Likes”

3. Outrage as Ukrainian opposition journalist found roughly beaten near Kiev, RT (formerly Russia Today) with video and two photos – 106 Tweets, 80 Facebook “Likes”

4. Ukrainian Journalist Beaten, Left in Ditch, Reuters with one Reuters photo on VOA English website – 7 Tweets, 32 Facebook “Likes”



US Embassy Kyiv Statement on Recent Attacks Against Journalists and Activists

December 25, 2013

The U.S. Embassy is appalled by the beating of journalist Tanya Chornovоl. We condemn the attack and call for an immediate investigation, which unlike previous such incidents must result in those responsible being held fully accountable under the law. We express our concern at a strikingly similar series of events over the last few weeks, targeting individuals, property, and political activity, apparently aimed at intimidating or punishing those linked to the EuroMaidan protests.

These are unacceptable violations of civil liberties that have no place in a modern, democratic society. We call upon the Government of Ukraine to prevent any further incidents, open fair and transparent investigations into all the attacks that have already occurred, ensuring real results that bring to justice not only the perpetrators, but especially those who ordered such brutal attacks.


OSCE media freedom representative condemns brutal attack against Ukrainian journalist, calls for thorough investigation

VIENNA, 25 December 2013 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed deep concern about journalists’ safety in Ukraine following an attack against Tatyana Chernovil, a journalist with Ukrainskaya pravda.

Chernovil was severely beaten last night after being followed on her way from Boryspil to Kyiv. Reportedly she suffered serious injuries, including a concussion and broken nose.

“Attacks on journalists cannot be tolerated, there must be no impunity for the perpetrators. I welcome that President Yanukovich condemned this attack and call on the authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice,” Mijatović said

Media reports that police has launched an investigation on hooliganism charges. According to Ukrainskaya pravda, Chernovil´s latest and critical reports covered high-level law enforcement officials.

Mijatović also reiterated her call to the Ukrainian authorities to improve the safety of journalists which has unfortunately deteriorated in recent weeks.

Представитель ОБСЕ по вопросам свободы СМИ осуждает жестокое нападение на украинскую журналистку, призывает провести тщательное расследование

ВЕНА, 25 декабря 2013 г. – Представитель ОБСЕ по вопросам свободы СМИ, Дунья Миятович, сегодня выразила глубокую обеспокоенность по поводу безопасности журналистов в Украине после нападения на Татьяну Черновил, журналистку газеты «Украинская правда».

Черновил была жестоко избита прошлой ночью после того, как за ней была устроена слежка по дороге из Борисполя в Киев. По сообщениям, она получила серьезные травмы, включая сотрясение мозга и перелом носа.

«Нападения на журналистов недопустимы, и преступники не должны остаться безнаказанными. Я приветствую то, что Президент Янукович осудил это нападение, и призываю власти провести незамедлительное и тщательное расследование для привлечения виновных к ответственности», – сказала Миятович.

Согласно сообщениям СМИ, полиция начала расследование по факту хулиганства. Согласно газете «Украинская правда», последние критические статьи Черновил касались высокопоставленных представителей правоохранительных органов.

Миятович также еще раз обратилась к украинским властям с призывом улучшить ситуацию с безопасностью журналистов, которая, к сожалению, в последние недели ухудшилась.


Freedom House

Ukrainian Authorities Must Protect Journalists and Investigate Attacks

December 26, 2013

The brutal beating of independent Ukainian journalist Tetyana Chornovol is an attack on freedom of the press and unacceptable intimidiation of citizen’s freedom of expression, Freedom House said.

“Authorities in Ukraine must take immediate, decisive steps to bring those guilty of recent attacks on Chornovol and other journalists to justice,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “In an environment where corruption is pervasive across business, government, and public life, Chornovol and others who report on corruption’s reach play an especially important role.”

Chornovol, who has reported on the palatial residences of government ministers, was beaten on December 25 in a village outside of Kyiv and later hospitalized. The attack escalated the violence against journalists, including police targeting journalists covering public demonstrations in Kyiv.

Chornovol was pulled from her car and beaten by several men. who left her in a ditch. More than 40 Ukrainian and foreign journalists were beaten by the police and others on December 1 while covering protests near the presidential administration building. The day before, journalists were injured when the riot police forcefully cleared the main public square in the capital, where protesters were holding vigil.  Two members of the anti-corruption movement Road Control, which has documented corruption among traffic police, have been attacked over the last two weeks. According to press reports, a protest organizer in the city of Kharkiv,  Dmitri Pylypets, was beaten and stabbed on December 24.

Authorities report having detained two men and seeking a third in the attack against Chornovol. but have not released further details.

Learn more:
Freedom in the World: Ukraine
Freedom of the Press: Ukraine
Freedom on the Net: Ukraine
Blog: Freedom at Issue

Freedom of ExpressionMedia Freedom

Central and Eastern Europe/Eurasia




Targeted Violence and Intimidation Towards Activists, Journalists in Ukraine

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 26, 2013

The United States expresses its grave concern over an emerging pattern of targeted violence and intimidation towards activists and journalists who participated in or reported on the EuroMaidan protests. The violent beating of journalist Tatiana Chornovol is particularly disturbing.

We call on the Government of Ukraine to uphold its OSCE commitments and ensure respect for human rights, including fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly, the rule of law, and democratic principles. We urge the Government of Ukraine to send an unequivocal message that violence against critics of the government and those who are working towards a modern, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine will not be tolerated. The United States, in concert with our European partners, will continue to closely watch the disposition of this and other cases.

Statement by the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine

Statement by the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine

The EU Delegation to Ukraine is closely following with concern the increasing pressure on civil society activists, political leaders and journalists who are taking part in peaceful protests in Kyiv and around the country, in support of the association of Ukraine with the EU and for the respect of fundamental freedoms. Intimidations, physical violence and dubious charges are being reported from different cities. The brutal attack the past night on journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovol is unfortunately only the latest one of a number of recent worrying cases.

The freedom of expression is among the internationally enshrined fundamental human rights which Ukraine signed up to respect and protect and which remain among the core values of every free and democratic society.

It is the duty and responsibility of the authorities to protect people’s right to demonstrate peacefully, the freedom of expression of journalists and other civil society activists: such rights needs to be protected everywhere and for everybody.

We note the prompt call by President Yanukovych for an investigation on the case of Tetyana Chornovol. We hope for a comprehensive investigation of that case and of all other cases of intimidation and violence based on all available and trustworthy evidences and witnesses. A proper and independent investigation would bring to justice all those responsible and address the problem of perceived impunity in the country for such serious violations of fundamental freedoms. Inaction of authorities or lack of result of the investigation risk to undermine public trust in ability of state to protect its citizens.