BBG Watch Commentary

BBG Watch UPDATE: As of 12:45AM ET, December 26, the VOA English website still has not updated its earlier news report from Reuters on the beating of a Ukrainian journalist. There is also no follow-up on Edward Snowden’s “Alternative Christmas Message” on the Britain’s Channel 4.

BBC Chornovol Beating 12-25-13The most extensive news coverage in English of the brutal beating of Ukrainian anti-government 34-year-old  activist and journalist Tetyana Chornovol can be found on BBC, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and even RT (formerly Russia Today) websites. The Voice of America (VOA) English website posted only a short news report from Reuters on the beating of the Ukrainian journalist. The report has not been updated on the VOA website and does not include any U.S. or international reactions to the incident. A few hours later (6:30PM ET), the Reuters report on the VOA website showed only 7 Tweets and 32 Facebook “Likes.”

It is not clear why in this case the Voice of America English Newsroom did not produce its own original report with more details, video, and U.S. reactions. Relying on Reuters, late posting of news and not updating its English website has been a common occurrence in recent years for the VOA English website.

Almost all international media spell the journalist’s last name “Chornovol.” VOA and Reuters spell it “Chornovil.”

VOA-Chornovol-12-25-13VOA Director David Ensor blames such problems on insufficient resources, but rank and file VOA journalists and other critics blame it on lack of leadership and poor management by top executives.

The VOA Newsroom could have done much better on the story since the VOA Ukrainian Service offered extensive coverage of the incident in Ukrainian and could have shared its information for the VOA English website if asked.

At the very least, VOA Newsroom could have used a more detailed RFE/RL report rather than going with a short report from Reuters and failing to update it. Like VOA, RFE/RL is also overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), but while management reforms were recently carried out at RFE/RL, resulting in improved news coverage, the Voice of America has not reformed its management or improved its news reporting operations.

We guess it would have been too much to ask for the VOA English Newsroom to provide any U.S. reactions to the brutal beating of a Ukrainian journalist. That would have required some extra work, but would not have been impossible even on Christmas day if the upper management has shown sufficient interest whether the VOA Newsroom is properly staffed, managed, given directions and provided with resources to do its job.

BBC even posted a separate profile report on the journalist: Profile: Tetyana Chornovol, BBC, Dec. 25, 2013.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv issued and posted on its website a statement condemning the attack and calling for an immediate investigation. By 7:30 ET Sunday, the U.S. Embassy statement showed 402 Facebook “Likes” — far more than the Reuters report on the VOA website, which had nothing on the statement.

The U.S. Embassy statement has also been available for more than nine hours on the website of Ukraine’s English-language newspaper Kyiv Post: US Embassy condemns beating of journalist Chornovol, Kyiv Post, Dec. 25, 2013.

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.

The BBG’s mission is “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” New BBG Chairman Jeff Shell and the renewed BBG board have started management reforms, focusing first on the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) — the agency’s management arm — but they have not gotten yet to reforming VOA. 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 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a statement in both English and Russian on the beating of Tetyana Chornovol, but VOA English News also did not report this. RFE/RL, however, did report that “Dunja Mijatović, the representative on media freedom for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has expressed deep concern following the attack, and called for a thorough investigation.”

While the VOA English website had no reports on U.S. or international reactions to the beating in Ukraine, the VOA Ukrainian website reported on the U.S. Embassy statement: Заява Посольства США в Україні стосовно нещодавніх нападів на журналістів та активістів, VOA Ukrainian Service, Dec. 25, 2013.

The VOA Russian Service did not report on the U.S. Embassy statement and used essentially the same Reuters report as posted on the VOA English website. It is safe to assume that the vast majority of VOA foreign language services also did not offer any U.S. reactions to the story. The failure of the VOA Central Newsroom is usually multiplied throughout VOA’s more than 40 language services. Such failures, which happen daily, also affect how 98 percent of VOA language services report news.

The VOA English website did not update the Reuters report on the beating of the Ukrainian journalist with any new information for many hours. Other news reports on the VOA site also remained unchanged for many hours on Christmas day.

Unlike BBC and RT, the VOA English website also did not post a follow up on Edward Snowden’s “Alternative Christmas Message.” VOA reported on December 24 that Snowden was to deliver such a message, but by 7PM ET its English website had nothing further on the story, while both BBC and RT (formerly Russia Today) reported on the content of his message and posted their reports as one of their top news stories.

Edward Snowden Christmas message: End mass surveillance, BBC, Dec. 25, 2013 – 1,864 Facebook “Likes” as of 8:30PM ET, Dec. 25, 2013.

‘Tracked everywhere you go’: Snowden delivers Xmas message on govt spying, RT (formerly Russia Today), Dec. 25, 2013 – 5,900 Facebook “Likes” as of 8:30PM ET, Dec. 25, 2013.

VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2013-12-25 at 10.02.06 PMBut while failing to update news stories on Snowden and the brutal beating of a Ukrainian journalist, the VOA English website posted prominently on its homepage a report — also from Reuters, which is a UK-based news agency — that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, said they are ending their marriage.

See Reuters report on VOA website: New York Ex-Governor Spitzer, Wife Say Marriage Is Over, Reuters on VOA English website, Dec. 25, 2013.

As of 10PM ET, Dec. 25, this particular Reuters report on the VOA English website showed only 7 Tweets and 3 Facebook “Likes.”

During the time it took VOA to post this Reuters report on marriage problems of a former New York Governor, they could have just as easily posted a far superior RFE/RL news report on the beating of a Ukrainian journalist or updated the Snowden story or updated their USA News section, which does not even show some of the latest news items.

VOA News continues to be in a state of complete disarray.

Old, Un-updated, No Social Media Engagement

Snowden to Deliver ‘Alternative Christmas Message’ in UK, VOA, Dec. 24, 20131 (one) Facebook “Like” as of 8:30PM ET, Dec. 25, 2013.

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. 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.