BBG Watch Commentary
In addition to a written statement on Ukraine issued by the U.S. State Department and initially ignored for a few hours by the Voice of America (VOA) English website, State Department’s deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said about four hours ago in her daily press briefing that “a large majority of the protestors here, and certainly the Maidan protestors, are peaceful” and the Ukrainian government “should not use violence against them.”
The State Department deputy spokesperson also condemned “the violent actions by some extreme right-wing demonstrators.” This news has not resulted in a separate report on VOA’s main English news website.
More significant, however, is that a report on the English website ignored her comment that in the view of the U.S. State Department, “a large majority of the protestors …, and certainly the Maidan protestors, are peaceful”
Speaking about protesters who resort to violence, Harf said that among demonstrators they represent a small minority — another significant point not reported on the VOA English website.
“There are these very small parties, a very small part of the demonstrations, and so that’s why we’re calling on all sides to refrain from violence,” Marie Harf said. “But again, I trust that a majority of these protestors are nonviolent,” she added in response to a question from a journalist.
The press briefing concluded at 2:56 PM EST. The spokesperson’s remarks on Ukraine came early in the briefing. As of 7:00 PM EST, the Voice of America English website still has no separate report on her remarks on Ukraine during the briefing or on the much earlier State Department written statement in reaction to reported deaths of demonstrators.
While not posting a separate report on U.S. reactions to violence and deaths in Ukraine, later in the afternoon VOA inserted additional sentences into another, already posted, news repot on the VOA website:
“In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman condemned the latest violence, and said the Obama administration is considering sanctions against the government, if President Yanukovych “fails to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians, including the rights of peaceful protest.”
Marie Harf blamed the violence on both the government and far-right extremists. She said the rightists are ‘inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors’.”
The VOA report, to which these sentences were later added, was not about U.S. reactions to news developments in Ukraine. It dealt primarily with EU reactions: “EU Threatens Action in Response to Ukraine Violence,” Henry Ridgwell, VOA, Jan. 22, 2014.
VOA’s Ukrainian and Russian Services had reported online on the earlier State Department statement in separate reports.
U.S. State Department
Daily Press Briefing
January 22, 2014
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Where do we begin?
MS. HARF: You’ve got the statement we put out.
QUESTION: Yes, we did. I noted that you criticized the government as well as some of these informal groups and some of the ultranationalist types. What exactly is going on? Because previously, I don’t think that you had really specifically named them.
MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question. I trust here that a large majority of the protestors here, and certainly the Maidan protestors, are peaceful. And we’ve said repeatedly that – called them that, peaceful protestors, and said that the government should not use violence against them.
There are these small – I mean, I have a little bit on that. Obviously, you saw our – saw – excuse me – our statement. But we do as well condemn the violent actions by some extreme right-wing demonstrators. There are these very small parties, a very small part of the demonstrations, and so that’s why we’re calling on all sides to refrain from violence. But again, I trust that a majority of these protestors are nonviolent.
QUESTION: And what kind of additional steps you could take, you could take to response to the violence in Ukraine? I mean, you mentioned in your statement that you could – you would consider additional steps. What could —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Including possibly sanctions. I don’t have more details on what those sanctions might look like. But we will continue to consider additional steps, as I said, including sanctions, in response to the use of violence. We urge – continue to urge President Yanukovych and his government to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians, including the right to peaceful protest. And if we have to take additional steps, we will.
Statement by Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on the Reported Deaths in Ukraine Street Clashes
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
January 22, 2014
The United States strongly condemns the increasing violence on the streets of Kyiv, which has led to casualties and the shooting deaths of two protesters. We urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation and refrain from violence. Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16. However, the aggressive actions of members of extreme-right group Pravy Sektor are not acceptable and are inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors. We likewise deplore violence by unofficial groups known as “titushki.” We also condemn the targeted attacks against journalists and peaceful protestors, including detentions. The Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence that we strongly support.
We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation and beginning a national dialogue with the political opposition. The United States has already revoked visas of several people responsible for violence, and will continue to consider additional steps in response to the use of violence by any actors.