Winners and Losers in the Babchenko case


At the end of May, the world was shook by the news of the critically acclaimed journalist Arkady Babchenko having been killed. A day later the presumed dead journalist appeared at a Ukrainian Security Service press conference and it turned out that he had staged his killing to prevent the actual murder taking place and to have the planners arrested.

Because the „killed individual“ was a journalist the „murder“ reached massive global media coverage on that day.  The announcement of the „murder“ was accompanied by the Ukrainian authorities blaming Russia for killing the journalist.

Of course a number of expressions of announcements of sympathy accompanied the news of the „murder“ and Russia was blamed in the statements of several prominent public figures.

It was quite a cold shower effect to all, when on the next day the news announced that the assassination had been staged and has led to a lively debate on ethics, permissiveness and inadmissibility, purpose, motivation as well as the behaviour of the Ukrainian authorities.

Aside from the details of the event, which the BBC has been trying to ascertain, we looked at the opinions expressed in the media and tried to analyze the impact of the incident on a larger scale.

Broadly speaking, opinions are divided into two – one condemning the staging of the murder connected to a massive media operation. In addition, the others justify the behaviour of Ukraine, considering it to be righteous.

It was alleged that it has undermined the credibility of the press, as well as allowing fake news to go beyond the limits of permissibility, giving Russian propaganda a weapon against Western media as well as using the Western media in a Ukrainian information operation against Russia. The Western media as well as public figures, analysts and politicians are among the more vocal on this opinion.

On the other hand, the ones supporting the event have suggested that the operation saved human life and the Ukrainian Security Service clearly stepped up to protect the journalist. The commentators allied to this opinion are to a large extent more closely connected with Ukraine or have been themselves at the mercy of Russian aggression.

Several articles state that Ukraine needs to quickly justify the need for the organized media operation to maintain credibility and persuade the world of its inevitability. It is clear that such an incident both for the Western media and for ordinary people has raised doubts about any future information published by Ukrainian authorities.

It has been too short a time since the event and much remains to be explained for us to give an assessment of the losers and winners. In general, it seems that this time there were significantly more losers than winners.

When assessing what has happened, Babchenko’s rescue operation should be clearly separated from the media operation against Russia.

At first glance, it seems that that Ukraine has lost quite a bit, especially in the eyes of supporters and the foreign press.

„Assassinated“ Babchenko kept his life but lost credibility as a journalist.

The press has suffered due to having unknowingly been the forwarder of a Ukrainian media operation and the consequent spreading of fake news.

Russia has gotten a concrete example where Ukraine and the Western press have participated in deliberate manipulation.

Opinions also diverge depending on the context and situation in which one or another opinion giver resides. The support of people living close to the Ukrainian crisis or those closely associated with it is difficult for the outside world to understand from a distance but this would have to have been taken into account when organizing a media operation.

Photo: A screen shot at a press conference