BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded news organization for foreign audiences, Voice of America (VOA), had no correspondent at the White House when President Obama made a statement Friday afternoon warning Russia about any military intervention in Ukraine and offered online only a very brief summary (87 words) of his nearly 3 minute long remarks. VOA did not post any video, audio, or a more complete text of the presidential statement on Ukraine in which he warned Russia not to intervene in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
A White House reporter told BBG Watch that VOA’s booth at the White House was completely dark this afternoon when President Obama was speaking. VOA White House correspondent Dan Robinson retired today and VOA management made no arrangements to send a replacement despite expectations that the President would speak this afternoon about Russia’s military moves in Crimea.
VOA was about half a hour behind both BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) in reporting on President Obama’s statement on Ukraine and provided no online video. Both BBC and DW almost immediately posted a video of President Obama’s remarks.
VOA had only 87 words on President Obama’s statement. VOA Newsroom described it as a “brief statement,” even though it was nearly three minutes long. VOA report also had a grammatical error in its first sentence. It read: “President Obama warned Friday will be costs to any Russian military intervention in Ukraine.”
The following text in the VOA report was initially all that pertained to President Obama’s nearly three-minute statement:
VOA News: President Obama warned Friday will be costs to any Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
In a brief statement to reporters at the White House, the president said any violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia would be deeply destabilizing.
He said the United States is deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements in Crimea. Obama said he wants to make it very clear that the Ukrainian people need to determine their own future. He reminded Russia that it has committed itself not to interfere in Ukrainian sovereignty.
Within two hours, the grammatical error was corrected and the text was expanded a little but not much:
VOA News: PENTAGON President Barack Obama has warned Moscow there will be costs if Russian troops intervene in Ukraine following reports that armed men, possibly Russians, have taken up positions in the Crimean region.
Obama said at the White House the United States is deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside Ukraine.
“It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine and of international laws,” he said.
Obama said he wants to make it very clear that the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. He reminded Russia that it has committed itself to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.
The name of VOA correspondent at the Pentagon, Luis Ramirez, was added for a byline, even though most of the report was old and was not written by him. Ramirez, regarded as a very good journalist, is expected to replace Robinson at the White House, but VOA managers apparently kept him today at the Pentagon. We doubt that Luis Ramirez agreed to have his name associated with this report. Reporting from the Pentagon on what was said at the White House also strikes us as strange, especially for such a major news story concerning U.S. President.
The VOA report says that it was last updated 3:26 PM, but the President did not finish speaking until 5:05 PM. VOA’s initial brief summary of President’s remarks was not inserted into a previously issued report, which was reposted much later than 5:05 PM — later than reports by BBC and DW. As of 8:00 PM EST, the VOA English website still has no video of the President speaking about Ukraine, a full text or a more complete summary, and not even a link to the statement on the White House website.
Despite a major geopolitical crisis that made President Obama come to the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room and to read on camera a statement on Ukraine with a warning to Russia, the VOA English website’s featured video was: Hollywood Gets Ready for Oscars. It appears next to the Obama-Ukraine news report, which actually has less than 100 words on President Obama’s statement. The rest of the report consisted of somewhat old background news information from Ukraine, although it included an excellent earlier account of the situation in Crimea from VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott.
The focus, however, should have been on President Obama’s statement and the White House
Once again, VOA senior management failed to plan for proper coverage of a major news story originating in Washington.
VOA’s online radio newscast at 11:00 PM EST did not lead with Obama’s statement and did not include an audio actuality of President Obama speaking about Ukraine. The newscast lead instead with news from Ukraine that was many hours old. While there was no audio actuality from President Obama in the newscast or a separate correspondent report about his statement on Ukraine, the newscast ended with a long correspondent report about Oscar preparations in Hollywood.
Listen to 11PM EST VOA English Radio Newscast
Obama: There Will Be Costs to Russian Military Action in Ukraine
Fri, Feb 28, 2014
Source: VOA News (USA)
Obama warns Russian intervention in Crimea would carry ‘costs’
Fri, Feb 28, 2014
Source: DW (Germany)
Sat, Mar 01, 2014
Source: BBC World News (UK)
Ukraine crisis: Obama ‘concerned’ over military moves
Fri, Feb 28, 2014
Source: BBC (UK)
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 28, 2014
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
5:05 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody.
Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine. Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future. Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.
I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.
However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.
It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.
Right now, the situation remains very fluid. Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister — the Prime Minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine. I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations.
We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies. We will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government. And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.
Thanks very much.
5:09 P.M. EST