Leading media likes to accuse alternative news platforms of not being accurate with the truth. But these established media themselves regularly provide misinformation and spread simplistic worldviews. It always seems more and more like we are back in times of the Völkische Observer, the striker, or the NS weekly show.
November 2013 to January 2014
The “Euromaidan” marks the beginning of the Ukraine conflict from 21 November 2013. In this early phase, the German media dominated the ignorance of both the country and the causes of the conflict. Issues that were very important for understanding Ukrainian events were not noticed by the media mainstream at this stage. It was, so to speak, “no news”. Not all of these aspects have been completely obscured, but they have all been under-addressed, given their relevance.
These included, for example, the sometimes explosive contents of the collapsed association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union (EU), which would not have required Ukrainian country or language skills, but only a little reading effort and research time. . Likewise, the media mainstream only greatly shortened the reasons for the rejection of the Ukrainian government, but mostly not at all.
For the German media, “No News” was also the Russian motive for the reserved attitude to the agreement. After all, the treaty that wanted to link the EU and Ukraine to a free trade area would also have involved Russia, unquestioned and indirectly, in this free trade area. The large neighbouring country itself already had such an agreement with Ukraine.
For those interested: In Oliver Stone’s film “Ukraine on Fire”, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin explain their motives in this matter. The then Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Asarov said in an interview with Telepolis.
In addition to the economic fears of Russia, Russia’s military fears did not play a role in the media.
“Even in the run-up to the Ukraine conflict, massive mistakes were made by the media,” writes the Trier-based media scientist Verena Bläser.
On the one hand, it has not been sufficiently clear who has what interests. It is clear that the EU also has an interest in Ukraine as a geostrategic base through which Russia may feel threatened and beleaguered, as NATO has steadily expanded further eastwards.
Left the right
When the Maidan had begun, the role of nationalist actors and far-right violent criminals remained unlit in the German mass media. Uncritically, they were often referred to as “activists” or “demonstrators”, even though they had no visible interest in peaceful demonstrations and instead masked themselves from the beginning and sometimes armed heavy street battles with the Police delivered.
The footage below shows attacks by violent Maidan fighters and hooligans, including on 24 November 2013 in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in Gruschewski Street, on 30 November around the Independence Column on Maidan — before and during the later Scandalized eviction by the Berkut Special Police — and on 1 December in front of the presidential administration in Bankova Street and at the Lenin monument on the boulevard Taras Shevchenko. These images from the first ten Maidan days alone make the speech of many Maidan supporters about the “long completely peaceful protests” ad absurdum.
These perpetrators of violence were organized in hooligan groups, in the paramilitary alliance “Right Sector”, which was founded in the first days on the Maidan, and in the nationalist opposition party Swoboda with its fighting unit “C 14”. The Swoboda was not only one of the three main political parties of the Maidan, but according to a study by the Kiev Center for Social Research even the most active of all organizations there.
Swoboda leader Oleh Tjahnybok, who in 2012 had made it to number 5 on a list of the worst anti-Semitic insults with his speech of the “Moskovite-Jewish Mafia”, nevertheless appeared almost non-in German coverage of Maidan. This was despite the fact that he sat at the table during all political negotiations during maidan and was seen in press photos from the beginning to the end of the uprising alongside high-ranking political Maidan visitors from the West.
Nevertheless, the WDR journalist and ARD Moscow correspondent Hermann Krause, for example, claimed that Tjahnybok and all right-wingers had been isolated from the West. wrong. Even on the important agreement on the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, Tjahnybok was involved in negotiations and was one of the signatories alongside Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Only after the end of Maidan were there some critical reports about Tjahnybok in German leading media as here in the ARD magazine Panorama. The linked article from March 2014 also shows the scandalous opportunistic attitude of German politicians such as the CDU man Elmar Brok, who , specifically addressed to this, referred to the anti-Semitic and racist positions of the Swoboda party as “proverbs of the Swoboda party” “The Past” is trivialized because their victory suits him in the foreign policy calculus. Always according to the motto: Putin’s enemy is my friend.
Behind Klitschko, the other Maid leaders disappeared
The second leader in the league, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, also came up with virtually no information in german reporting. This focused almost exclusively on Vitali Klitschko. Perhaps because Yatsenyuk was so unknown in this country. But perhaps also because, as an established member of the Ukrainian political elite, as a former economy minister, foreign minister and National Bank president, he seemed more like part of the problem than a credible part of the solution. Perhaps even because even then an initial superficial research showed that he is closely connected with NATO, Western political foundations and oligarchs through his foundation.
Speaking of oligarchs, today’s Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was also a leader on the Maidan stage from the start. As a long-serving member of parliament and former foreign and economy minister, he was also a well-established part of Ukrainian politics. However, his name only became known in this country during the following presidential campaign in the spring. Even there he remained the harmless “chocolate tsar” and very rarely the media mogul and arms entrepreneur, as he still profits to this day.
A blatant right-wing extremist, a neo-liberal NATO friend and a billionaire businessman — for the German leading media, most of the leaders of the Maidan were “No News”.
Nazi march worth no news
The media also completely ignored a large march of Ukrainian nationalists celebrating the 105th birthday of their hero Stepan Bandera. More than 15,000 people marched through Kiev city centre on 1 January 2014 with torches, flags and nationalist slogans. Compared to 2013 and after 2015, the numbers have more than tripled. It seems that Russian and British media take the risk of anti-Semitism more seriously than German media, to which none of these marches are worth reporting except for the aforementioned report.
The massive march was organized by the far-right “Swoboda”. Among other things, the demonstrators repeatedly shouted “Ukraine over everything”, “Death to the enemies”, or “Slava Ukraini, Herojam Slava” — glory of Ukraine, the hero glory — a fascist greeting from the Second World War. According to the US news agency AP, some demonstrators even wore uniforms of the Ukrainian SS division “Galicia”.
Why did German media not inform about this big march? After all, Kiev was keeping a close eye on The Maidan, which had been running for weeks. In addition, the nationalist torchbearers shouted the same anti-government slogans as usual on maidan. Indeed, such reports would have rendered the previous reporting of the peaceful civil society assembly absurd. Real rights with highly aggressive slogans and even in masses? Until then, this was only available in Russian state media.
Moreover, the nightly torchlight march through the capital would have triggered eerie associations with The Nazis’ torchlight processions in Berlin in the 1930s, especially among German audiences. For media outlets such as USA Today or the BBC, however, news of the march was not taboo.
Nazi attacks on left-wing protesters don’t fit into the narrative
As can be seen, the nationalist to far-right activities on the Maidan were hardly or not addressed by German leading media. This includes attacks on trade unionists, feminists and left-wing students in the early days of Maidan. On 27 November, for example, students were chased off the square and their posters were torn apart. Instead of “glory of Ukraine,” they had placarded “the glory of reason” and praised Europe’s sexual tolerance, which was at odds with the conservative-clerical stance of the protesting Maidan parties.
On 4 December there was a violent attack on a union stand. “Around 6 p.m., a group of about 100 people approached us from Maidan, 30 of whom were masked and wearing far-right badges,” said trade unionist Denis Lewin. “15 of them attacked me and my brothers, using tear gas and destroying our tent, including the loudspeaker system, with knives.”
The Nazi groups were only a minority in the protests in the initial phase , but an extremely conspicuous one. In fact, it would have been difficult for the German media public to convey sympathy for the far-right Maidan fighters, their political organizers and the nationalist attitudes of some demonstrators — a sympathy that journalists loudly Golineh Atai, by the way, would automatically feel with “freedom fighters” like those on the Maidan.
Draconian Laws - First Big Fake News
On 16 January 2014, the events on the Maidan had temporarily passed out of the German media, the Ukrainian parliament passed several legislative amendments, which primarily concerned the right to demonstrate. The decisions became significant because Maidan fighters used them to start a massive street war against the police in Kiev, with deaths on both sides, starting on 16 January, fuelling the conflict.
In the German media landscape, the laws were either referred to as “repressive” “undemocratic”, “dictatorial”, or “draconian”. In doing so, the media adopted the interpretation of the Maidan activists one-to-one. Even then, however, Stutzig made up for the fact that the established media did not elaborate on these laws. This meant that media users lacked the opportunity to get their own picture of the alleged repressiveness of the decisions.
After all, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in three sentences that the new laws provide for fines for demonstrators who wear masks or helmets. The unauthorised construction of stages and tents in public places could be punishable by up to 15 days in prison, it said. Up to five years in prison could be used for the occupation of public buildings. Significantly, a satire at Spiegel Online still offered the greatest information content of German media on the new laws. The satire also made clear the joke about the local criticism of the media and politicians:
We have found that Yanukovych has plagiarized the rules of democratic states for his security laws. It thus violates the copyright and performance protection rights of our liberal community of values (…) The summit of boldness, however, was that Yanukovych had almost literally written off his intolerable ban on masking, helmeting and uniforms from the German Assembly Law and only varied the threat of punishment: in Ukraine, the threat of punishment was Violations were ten days in prison, in Germany it was one year.
In Germany normal, in Ukraine “dictatorial”
Indeed, many of the ukrainian legislative changes at the time are standard in Germany and other EU states. Look at the German Assembly Act, for example, paragraphs 15, 17a, 24 or 27. In many Western European countries and in the United States, there is also anti-terrorism legislation that goes far beyond what was then Ukrainian.
According to Yanukovych’s legislative package, for example, SIM cards should now only be allowed to be purchased upon presentation of the ID card. The denial of the crimes of National Socialism should now be subject to heavy fines. Collecting information about members of the state judiciary and security apparatus and their families should become a criminal offence. In addition, defamation became a criminal offence. The damage to anti-fascist and Soviet monuments should be punishable by imprisonment.
Repressive, dictatorial, draconian?
Definitely these laws were directed against maidan, as were the ban on car columns — against the ‘Automaidan’ — and they were actually passed by Parliament without prior debate. However, the opposition itself had been preventing any meaningful parliamentary work for months with blockades, constant noise and brawls. After the adoption of the legislative package, Yatsenyuk, Klitschko and co. even declared the entire democratically legitimized parliament to be an “illegitimate” institution.
Regardless of whether one personally welcomes or rejects the amendments to the law, one thing has become clear: our media mainstream had dealt with the contents of the law only extremely superficially or, against better knowledge, presented them as disproportionate and over-hard. Repressive, dictatorial, draconian — these descriptions by German leading media were more than just greatly exaggerated. They were just wrong. You yourself would probably speak of “fake news”.
For sources see the original post