Saturday, January 12, 2008

Do not trust British Independent, it is biased; new fact

In a blog entry few weeks ago I was able to demonstrate some striking inconsistencies in the coverage of the Baltic states by the British newspaper "The Independent". A correspondent of the paper presented to the readers a construct of half-truths and lies, which relied conveniently on the Russian (Kremlin) point of view. Kremlin point of view is easy to detect as in Russian state propaganda, including that published on the FM's webpage, Moscow characteristically makes misleading references to Council of Europe's recommendation papers, trying to shed bad light on the Baltic states. So when you read a phrase sounding like this: "International organizations including Council of Europe have been critical of Estonia's treatment of Russian speaking minorities" you should get suspicious, because it is the wording from virtually thousands Russian propaganda outlets.
On the other hand, The Independent failed to use any sources in Baltic states in order to provide alternative view in the dispute, which made it look like Pravda .

Today I have reason to withdraw that assessment. Scrolling trough Russian press coverage of the conflict I discovered a selection of pro-Russian comments, from Europe, published in widely popular nationalist, leftist Russian daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda" (the name translates as "The Truth of Young Communists", see her entry in Wiki), available at this address, by a known estophobic journalist. This selection of comments included one from Western media, the British Independent.

For the Russian press it is a common tactic to make a selection of comments from "C" and "D" class European dignitaries. On Estonia, invited speakers include chairman of supervisory board of a Gazprom controlled enterprise, who in the past served as German Chancellor, as well as chairman of supervisory board of a Russia-operating Dutch investment company, who served a term as European Council's body, PACE president. This time Moscow correspondent of the Independent participated, saying:

Эндрю ОСБОРН, московский корреспондент британской газеты «Индепендент»:

- Я не согласен с тем, что Запад поддерживает Эстонию. Сам я разделяю российскую позицию.

Andrew Osborn (sp?), Moscow correspondent of the British newspaper "The Independent":

- I disagree with the Western support of Estonia. I share Russian position.
(my translation)

The piece is from 28th of April, 2007, a day after the largest Russian attack against Estonia since 1991 took place, with Tallinn merchant quarters devastated by Russian nationalist organizations, Estonian diplomats besieged inside their own Embassy in Moscow, Estonian digital infrastructure collapsing (parts of it broke down during following two days and the country's internet was switched off outside World) under DDOS attacks and Russian Parliament delegation arriving to Tallinn to threaten Estonia and demand forming pro-Russian government.

Civilized World opinion was made clear by the EU High Representative Xavier Solana:

We support Estonia.

(on the EU reaction see in the same piece by Komsomolskaya. I didn't read further, but I guess they implied in the article Mr Solana was sort of fascist).

Yet "the Independent" was against Estonia. People like these particular journalists, sometimes graduates from students exchanges in the USSR times, from KGB sponsored faculties of "International Affairs and Friendship"; others directly enlisted to FSB payroll in modern times; more prominent figures, such as retired politicians given high salary jobs in Russia controlled undertakings. Best known examples are as already mentioned Mr former Germany chancellor and Mr former PACE president, now running exquisite gas and real estate Russian businesses. These "useful fools" and "friends" are routinely used to promote the expression "but the true Europe is with us!" among Russians. Not surprisingly the vote in the EU parliament, condemning Russia's actions was only 30 to 1 in support of our free country, the 1 representing the share of the two categories. But back to our main sujet.

Last time blogging on the topic I made advice to the journalist, who wrote the pasquill about Estonia and Latvia, to spend his local time better and to learn from our experience.

I was wrong.
Perhaps I was fooled by imagining the paper as sort of equivalent to Estonian non-partizan dailies.

I have no advice to "the Independent"'s managed journalism as I have no advice to Kremlin's managed democracy.


Mr. Potato Head said...

"In a blog entry few weeks ago I was able to demonstrate some striking inconsistencies in the coverage of the Baltic states by the British newspaper "The Independent"."

Actually, you did no such thing. Rather, as I and others pointed out, you said that a British correspondent should not write a critical article about the Baltic States, because social problems also exist in Britain.

"People like these particular journalists, sometimes graduates from students exchanges in the USSR times from KGB sponsored faculties of "International Affairs and Friendship""

Do you have any proof that Mr. Osborn has such a background? If not, then your speculation on him is meaningless.

Furthermore, the fact that someone went on a "student exchange in USSR times" proves absolutely nothing about his views then or now. People who went on such programs often returned to their home countries with negative views of the Soviet system.

And further, it appears that in your world, nobody is capable of expressing an honest opinion; ANY criticism of Estonia MUST originate somewhere in the Kremlin or the vicinity thereof. Therefore, in the world of "Ivan vs Jaan," "honest criticism" is an oxymoron, at least when applied to Estonia.

Estonia in World Media (Rus) said...

You fail to see what is written in big letters across the upper part of this page. Do you understand the meaning of "vs"? Do you know what "Ivan" means? Do you pay attention to the right side, did you think this is kind of joke or accident that there are only Russia-critical feeds listed of feeds from the right leaning press? Or you don't understand what Paet said in his statement, under attack from Russia? Do you need me to make it more graphic by drawing a picture of myself holding automatic weapon guarding river Narva in a sort of ww2 poster?

This is Estonian blog, here you read, if you want, Estonian opinion, as seen by the author. You can't say what kind of criticism is represented here, honest, green or sweet, because there's no criticism, at least not of the enemies.

Had The Independent written across its web page "We are left, pro-that, anti-this", had it said what its Moscow journalist did in the Russian paper, as it is actually done here, in this page, I would not dedicate so much time to this publication. Instead I'd mock it straight away as with the other Kremlin cronies.

I don't know if I need still to point out but there are Russian blogs with Russian opinions, perhaps thousand more than Estonian opinion blogs. If you want to promote "honest criticism", go there. After you've done that and still want to continue come back here, in this order, I'll listen.

Mr. Potato Head said...

It's completely clear that the theme of this blog is "Yay Estonia, boo Russia!" I don't think anyone could miss that. This still means that your arguments should be founded on facts and logic if you want to be taken seriously.

And speaking of "big letters at the upper part of the page," you say we should not trust the Independent because it is "biased." You are also biased (and to your credit, very open about it). Should we also not trust you?

mina said...

Mr, Putato as slow as always.

Last time you were shown how by exaggerating some facts (for example that "Russians can't vote in Estonia") leaving out other facts (that not Russians, but non-citizens(!) and they CAN vote on local elections and can't vote on parliament elections - Estonian citizens only - and most of the Russians have citizenship... Russian or Estonian... only about 8% of pop still haven't decided where they want to vote), and still you scrap around.

Truth is not always in the middle - and at least facts should one decent journalist get straight.

Giustino said...

The whole Russian-Estonian equation needs to be flipped because it's not 1992 anymore.

The big question vis a vis the minority is *what do they want?*.

Let's throw out a few givens:

* Estonian independence is secure, Estonia is integrated into the West.

* Estonians make up the majority of the population of Estonia and this majority will increase.

* Even without support, Russians will remain as a viable linguistic minority in Estonia for several generations.

* Russians have an active Russian-language media and school system. Russians also have easy access to media generated in the neighboring Russian Federation.

The *big* question is, what do Russians in Estonia want to preserve while they become Estonians too?

What does it mean to be Russian? What can be handed down across generations for decades to come in Estonia so that when we wake up in 2050, we can say there is a viable Russian minority in Estonia kept alive by institution X and institution Y.

Is it the Russian language schools? Is it the Orthodox Church? Is it the theater? What is it?

They've got to focus their efforts on a few things and they've got to do it themselves. They've got to figure out who they are and what defines them and how to pass that down.

Then they can become an institutional minority in Estonia that perpetuates itself via certain institutions and *at the same time* be integrated into society.

They have to figure out how to do that. They can't just sit around waiting to be told who to be.

Nobody understands this though. We're still stuck arguing over the citizenship issue -- which is almost a non-issue because only 8 percent of the population is stateless -- and arguing about the occupation issue, which is also pointless because every country in the world save Russia calls it that.

So let's talk about the real issue. What can be done to ensure Russian cultural continuity while encouraging integration in society so that everyone has the same opportunities and when Estonian kids and Russian kids enter the workforce, it's not the first time in life that they are sitting side by side.

Mr. Potato Head said...

"Mr, Putato as slow as always."

Not me! I assume you are referring to the Independent's previous article. I admit it wasn't a very strong piece of work. My argument was with Our Bloghost's reasoning, which struck me as very weak.


"The big question vis a vis the minority is *what do they want?*."

It is my impression that this question is impossible to answer in the way you've phrased it, because there is no coherent "they". Baltic Russian identity (which I've studied in some depth) consists of various vectors which go in different directions. You have the remnants of the pre-1940 communities (somewhat distinct identity of their own), the Esto-, Latvo- & Litho-Russians (who identify with their home countries), the Diasporans (who identify with Russia), and the Euro-Russians (who identify with Europe rather than any particular country). It's a very heterogeneous group (plus, a lot of them aren't even Russian, really).

BTW, I enjoy your blog, even though I don't always agree with it.