(Eagle News) — Ukraine is now under heavy criticism after admitting to staging the murder of anti-Kremlin journalist Arkady Babchenko, as Moscow, international press freedom groups, and commentators hit the stunt that brought the concept of fake news to an entirely new level.
Critics in social media also blasted the stunt as “deplorable” and “distressing” as Kiev’s move was seen as an attempt to put Russia in a bad light. Twitter was also awash with memes as news of Kiev’s staging of the journalist’s “murder” came in the news.
But political commentators suggest that this seemed to have backfired on Kiev.
Russia Times interviewed political commentator and journalist John Wight who was quoted as saying, “The Western media has been led up the garden path by the Ukrainian authorities.”
The RT report said “in Wight’s opinion, this faked murder incident suggests that the Ukrainian authorities can never be trusted in future ‘when they come out with allegations of murder or any kind of crimes being committed with the clear reference of Russian state involvement.'”
Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the set up as propaganda aimed at discrediting the Russian authorities.
“We’re glad that a Russian citizen is alive,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
“Now the true motives are beginning to be revealed for this staging, which is totally obviously yet another anti-Russian provocation.”
On Twitter, Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, denounced the stunt, describing it as “crossing a line, big time.”
Soldatov was a former colleague of Babchenko.
“Babchenko is a journalist, not a policeman… and part of our job is trust,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I’m glad he is alive, but he undermined even further the credibility of journalists and the media.”
Both the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters without Borders issued their statements condemning Kiev’s staging of the murder, and said that this has repercussions on media as a whole, and on Ukraine’s credibility.
IFJ on Thursday said that this undermined the credibility of the journalism profession worldwide, as it denounced the stunt as an “intolerable” lie.
“Arkady Babchenko is still alive and can continue to exercise his profession as an outspoken journalist: this is great news,” IFJ President Philippe Leruth said in a statement.
“However, by spreading false evidence about his murder, Ukrainian authorities have seriously eroded the credibility of information,” Leruth added.
He said journalists’ work “runs the risk of being considered a propaganda operation,” adding that the case fuels notions that journalists and politicians conspire.
“Was it really necessary to stage his death in order to stop an alleged attack?” Leruth asked.
Anthony Bellanger, secretary general of the IFJ — which represents around 600,000 journalists in 187 unions and associations across
146 countries — complained that the fallout was worldwide.
“This is not a simple journalistic case anymore, but rather a complete circus orchestrated by military figures and a journalist threatened with death for several weeks,” Bellanger said.
“It is intolerable to lie to journalists around the world and to mislead millions of citizens that were rightly moved by this so-called murder,” he added.
He said it is “unacceptable” to stage the death of a journalist when so many are actually being killed around the world as part of their quest for truth.
Reporters Without Borders condemned Wednesday the staging of a murder of an anti-Kremlin journalist in Ukraine as a “pathetic stunt”.
Christophe Deloire, the head of the Paris-based media watchdog, told AFP that while he was relieved that Arkady Babchenko was alive, “it is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive… for the stunt”.
The war correspondent appeared at a press conference in Kiev less than 24 hours after the authorities there said that he had been gunned down in the stairwell of his apartment building in an apparent contract-style killing.
Babchenko, who has repeatedly faced death threats for his reporting, said he took part in the “special operation” to help catch the alleged mastermind of a real plot to kill him.
But Deloire insisted the fake set-up “would not help the cause of press freedom. All it takes is one case like this to cast doubt on all the other political assassinations,” he said, referring to the killings of a number of the Kremlin’s critics in Ukraine in recent years.
“It is the state lying, even if it was brief,” he added.
“It is always deeply dangerous that states play with the facts — moreover on the backs of journalists.”
In an operation that blindsided the world’s media, Babchenko made a shock reappearance at a press conference in Kiev on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Ukrainian authorities reported he had been shot dead at his home in a contract-style killing blamed on Russia.
Babchenko, who told the press he had been preparing to stage his death with secret services for several weeks, dismissed the criticism and asked “all these moralizers” to put themselves in his place.
(with reports from Agence France-Presse)