A total of 37 websites from the region announced that Russia accused Ukraine of shelling Russian territory and that Ukraine denies responsibility. Some websites, 30 of them, on the other hand, completely left out Ukraine’s denials of these accusations.
In the days before Russia invaded Ukraine, media from across the region reported on events in eastern Ukraine, mostly sharing reports from foreign media outlets and statements by senior officials from both our region and abroad.
On February 21, 2022, the world media shared claims of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), according to which the Ukrainian army fired a projectile into Russian territory, as well as the denials of the authorities in Kiev (1, 2, 3, 4).
As reported by Reuters, the FSB announced on Monday, February 21, that a projectile fired from Ukrainian territory destroyed the facility of border patrols in the Rostov region. Along with this claim, the Russian state news agency RIA also published a video showing the destroyed structure, but it did not show the moment when the projectile hits the structure or the remains of the projectile. According to Reuters’ article, Ukraine denies responsibility for shelling Russian territory and accuses Russia of spreading fake news. The mentioned Reuters, Moscow Times, India Today, USN, and many other media around the world included in their reports the announcement of the FSB and the denials of the Ukrainian authorities.
Dozens of websites from BiH and the region, including Index, Danas, Politika, N1 Srbija, Radio Kameleon, Srpska Info, Vecernji and many others, also published news about the destroyed facility on Russian border territory and Ukraine’s denial in the same article. On the other hand, BHRT, ATV, FACE, Glas Srpske, Kurir, Republika and others first published FSB’s announcement, followed by the Ukrainian statement in another article. A total of 37 websites in the region published both information, either in one or two separate articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37).
On the other hand, some media completely omitted Ukraine’s denials from their reporting, relying entirely on information from the Russian security service and news agencies.
It is still unclear whether the Ukrainian army shelled Russian territory, given that Russia and Ukraine make opposite claims and that there is still no clear material evidence to determine which is true. Most of the world’s and regional credible media do not claim either but report both statements in the same reports.
The majority of articles sharing Russian statements come from the media in Serbia
In some media reports in the region, originally published on websites in Serbia, only FSB’s claims were published, which are presented as facts. Some media have decided to further “dramatize” the news about this event by equipping articles with sensationalist headlines:
Other websites from Serbia that published only a Russian statement are Sputnik, Alo, Novosti, Informer, Mondo, Happy, Pravda, Objektiv and many others, and there are 25 of them in total (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).
In their articles equipped with sensationalist headlines, the websites Republika and Kurir first published a statement from the FSB. Both websites later published new articles (1, 2) about the new Russian announcement claiming that the Russian army had captured Ukrainian saboteurs at the border and liquidated them. Ukraine’s denials of these claims, as well as earlier claims about the shelling of buildings at the border, are stated at the very end of the same article, in just a few sentences. Although these two websites eventually published Ukraine’s denial, most of the space and attention was given to claims from Russia, while Ukraine’s were mentioned at the end of the article.
How did the media in BiH report on this
Some websites in BiH, more precisely five of them, while sharing the news from the Serbian media, also shared the claims of the FSB without including denials of Ukraine, which they did not publish later in the new articles.
Donetsk People’s Republic declared a state of emergency! (Pozitivna Srpska)
In Croatia and Montenegro, both announcements went largely unnoticed
On February 21, 2022, Croatian news agency Hina published an article containing claims by the Russian security service and denials from Ukraine. On their website, the news is entirely available only to subscribers, but it can be read on several other websites, such as Index, Vecernji and Nacional, Tportal, Direktno, Geopolitika and Glas Istre.
When it comes to the media from Montenegro, the website Vijesti (.me) also published a statement from the FSB and a denial from Ukraine.
Although some media outlets shared Ukraine’s denial in a separate article after publishing the FSB’s statement, 30 websites throughout the region did not publish it.
An example of selective reporting on the incident on the Russian border are the articles of certain websites that report on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis “hour by hour”.
The websites Srbin, Objektiv and Sputnik, which follow the latest events in Ukraine “live”, published the news about the alleged Ukrainian projectile that destroyed the facility in the Rostov region at around 11 am on February 21. Since then, until the writing of this analysis, their articles have been supplemented by dozens of news about the development of the situation in Ukraine, but without including the denial of the Ukrainian government to the accusations of shelling Russian territory.
The background of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis was briefly explained in our previous analysis of media coverage of events in Ukraine:
Although the FSB’s statement was published before the Ukrainian announcement, both were available in the world and regional media in a very short time. Despite that, some media decided to ignore the statement about Ukraine’s denial.
One-sided reporting on an event, especially in times of crisis, is a serious violation of the ethical norms of the journalistic profession.
The press and online media Code of the Press Council of BiH states, among other things:
Journalists and editors must not conceal and/or withhold important information, the publication of which could materially affect the interpretation of the published report and the understanding of the readership.
In reporting and commenting on the controversy, journalists will make a legitimate effort to hear and represent all parties to the dispute. If one party to the controversy refuses to advertise, journalists may justifiably state this rejection in their report.
Editors and journalists are obliged to convey the views of all participants in an event or all stakeholders, and if necessary, the opinions of experts who are not involved in the event, have no direct interest or are not related to the actors of the event.
Similar guidelines are provided in the Code of Journalists of Serbia, published on the website of the Press Council.
Given the facts, media articles that reported on the incident on the Russian border unilaterally, i.e., relied only on Russian sources, without mentioning Ukraine’s denial, are rated as biased reporting.
(Author: Nerma Šehović, Raskrinkavanje.ba)