BBG Watch Commentary

Voice of AmericaWhile the Voice of America (VOA) English news website has been showing for hours a very optimistic and misleading Ukraine headline Thursday evening and Friday morning:

Ukrainian Opposition Leaders Voice Optimism as Crisis Talks End, VOA

other major international organizations were skeptical and reporting exactly the opposite of what VOA has reported.

VOA has kept its Ukraine headline on its homepage for hours (it’s still there as of 3:00 AM EST Friday) and was not updating its report with new and changing information that other news organizations had in their news reports from the beginning:

Ukraine unrest: Opposition sceptical over crisis talks, BBC

Kyiv protesters jeer truce offer, build more barricades, RFE/RL

Ukrainian opposition rejects govt proposal, talks to continue,RT (Russia Today)

Ukrainian opposition: Talks with president yielded nothing, CCTV (China)

Both Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle also offered accurate and balanced reporting. Al Jazeera reported that only one opposition leader was somewhat optimistic while the others and the demonstrators were not:

Although one opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said after the talks that “there is a really good chance” to stop the bloodshed, Klitschko was more pessimistic.

“The only thing we were able to achieve was not much,” he told the crowd. Al Jazeera

Deutsche Welle reported along the same lines:

Three Ukrainian opposition leaders have emerged from ‘crunch’ talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, with one of them saying there was a chance of ending a standoff that turned violent in Kyiv in recent days. DW

VOA News report had a misleading headline, lacked balance and has remained on the website for many hours without being updated.

All other major news organizations, including RFE/RL, reported this news accurately and with proper balance, but not Voice of America. To anybody at all familiar with the situation in Ukraine, such an optimistic headline as the one VOA posted would look suspicious.

Ukrainian Opposition Leaders Voice Optimism as Crisis Talks End

January 23, 2014

Voice of America

Ukrainian opposition leaders emerged late Thursday from crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, saying an opportunity exists to end weeks of political turmoil and violence gripping the capital, Kyiv.

Ukraine’s Unian news agency quoted one opposition figure, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as saying, “there is a very high chance” the ongoing police confrontation with protesters in Independence Square will soon end.

Neither Yatsenyuk nor boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, who also participated in the talks, elaborated; but, television footage later showed both men addressing thousands of protesters gathered in the square, as a fragile truce called earlier in the day continued.

Opposition leaders and their supporters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, early presidential elections and the lifting of recently-imposed restrictions on protests.  

Russian television reported the talks included a possible rollback in the new laws and changes to the prime minister’s Cabinet; however, there had been no official government announcements by early Friday, and the situation remained unclear.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden telephoned Yanukovych Thursday to urge an immediate de-escalation in the increasingly violent standoff.

A White House statement said Biden also warned the embattled Ukrainian leader that “further bloodshed will have consequences for Ukraine’s relationship with the United States.”  At least three opposition protesters were killed Wednesday in Kyiv, as the protests entered their third month.

The U.S. warning came a short while after regional news outlets began reporting protesters storming government offices in at least three locations in western Ukraine.  In the city of Lviv, protesters surrounded the regional governor, Oleh Salo and forced him to write a letter of resignation.  Russian television showed earlier scenes of burning barricades in Kyiv and said at least 300 people were injured in the city late Wednesday and early Thursday.

The crisis was spawned by the president’s November 21 decision to back out of a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.  The Kyiv government’s decision resulted in a multi-billion-dollar bailout from Moscow that analysts say staved off near-certain bankruptcy for the impoverished country.