The Guardian’s Shaun Walker reports on the latest activities of Andrey Babitsky, the anti-Putin journalist who was fired from RFERL close to a year ago amidst a conspiracy of silence.
In an office just off Lenin Square in Donetsk, a small group of journalists is plotting the launch of a new television channel, to be based in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. In the polarised media climate around the conflict in east Ukraine, it is no surprise that a new channel is being set up in the Russia-backed statelet. More surprising is the journalist leading it: Andrei Babitsky, who for years was accused by many in Russia of being a traitor to his country.
Here is my full article on Babitsky’s account of his work and departure from RFERL, including translations from an interview he did with a Czech newspaper (the single biggest exposure his case had in the Western MSM).
TL;DR – Working with RFERL since 1989. Feted as an anti-Putin hero journalist for explaining how Chechens decapitating Russian POWs on camera isn’t sadism but a way of making the war more palpable. Emigrated to Prague, where RFERL has its HQ, permanently in 2000. Continued traveling to Russia occasionally, most notably for taking an interview with the terrorist Shamil Basayev – he of Beslan school siege fame – in 2005. Consistent in his support for local autonomy and self-determination, he was okay with Crimea’s reincorporation into Russia, for which he was suspended without pay from RFERL. Soon afterwards, he uncovered evidence of Aidar war crimes in Donbass, which he videod and sent back to RFERL HQ. Was almost immediately fired from RFERL.
Virtually no mention of a Russian journalist being fired from an American state-owned media organization in the Western media, apart from a single interview in a Czech newspaper several months after the fact. Compare and contrast with the days long furor in the Western MSM when an American journalist resigned from a Russian state media outlet live on air. If this isn’t evidence of the Western media being controlled – it doesn’t have to be direct – then I don’t know what is. At any rate, Babitsky evidently agreed:
“I think the situation has changed a lot since the conflict sprung up between Russia and the west. And to a significant extent, Radio Liberty, which for a long time was a journalistic organisation, has become a propaganda instrument,” Babitsky claimed in an interview in Donetsk recently.
Which is why he is now setting up a TV channel in Donetsk.
He described his new project as an “independent internal channel which will fill a new niche”. It will be called Dialogue and the idea is to hold discussions between Donetsk and the rest of Ukraine.
“We want to move away from the language of hate, to use more analysis, and to try to bring in voices from the other side of the lines,” said Babitsky. He insisted the channel was not affiliated with state structures in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and said the modest funding had come from local businessmen. He plans to hire around six people to get the channel up and running within a month.
“Humans should remain human in any circumstances, and that is difficult to achieve in times of war. Hatred towards the enemy twists human feelings and we need to hear calm voices.”
It is worth pointing out that Guardianista sentiment towards Babitsky is about 75% negative, accusing him of being a Putinbot and a turncloak. Here is probably the best comment there, from one “Shatford Shatford”, an amusing blend of gay fever and Putin Derangement Syndrome (the latter displayed here in the implication that his claws reach all the way to Prague):
He was given a choice:
Either you shut up and start saying you love Putin or we a) jail you for 30 years; b) gun you down in the street and blame it on homosexuals; or c) repossess the homes of all your family members and kill their pets.
Sometimes people just aren’t willing to sacrifice everything for their ideals. Not everyone is Thomas Moore.
Babitsky is no friend of Putin or even of Russia. Nor, as it now turns out, is he an uncritical friend of the West either, as Boomerang Babitsky has come flying back to make a plant square on their face.
As for his own journey, Babitsky said there is nothing surprising about someone who was once considered a traitor by many Russians now espousing pro-Kremlin views.
“At that time I felt for the Chechens, because I thought that if these people want to live by their own traditions and move away from Russia then they should be able to. Probably we should have listened to those moods and not killed so many people,” he said.
“It’s the same here. I think Russia is playing a significant role here, but the reasons are not to be found in Russia, they are internal. This is a civil war, where the interests of two parts of Ukraine that consider themselves linked to two cultural traditions are clashing with each other.”
He is simple a man for whom his own principles come first. For all too many, especially those Westerners who view themselves as being invariably on the side of the Light, Truth, Progress, and Independent Media, the very notion is well nigh inconceivable.