News outlet: Pervyj Baltiskij kanal
Date: 2 March 2016
Title: Пикет в поддержку Лайлы Брице
The false fact or narrative: On 2 March, Latvia’s most popular Russian-language TV channel, Pervyj Baltiskij kanal (PBK) reported on a protest at the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riga. The rally was in support of Laila Brice, a Latvian resident of Great Britain who had been arrested for hiding in her home a woman with a four-month-old baby. UK authorities thought Brice had information about the woman’s whereabouts but was keeping it from them. PBK reported that protesters had accused the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of ignorance regarding the case, and criticized British authorities for excessive control over the raising of children—and for their cruel attitude towards Brice.
The truth: The Brice case has a long history dating back to 2009, when her 22-month-old daughter was taken away after British officials concluded that Brice was unable to properly care for her child. Later on, a British family adopted the baby. Concerning the demonstration, the PBK journalist only interviewed participants who evidently supported Brice’s interpretation of why she was arrested—thereby framing her as the victim of official Latvian ignorance and uncaring British arbitrariness. Moreover, the voiceover also clearly suggested that the journalist supports Brice’s perspective. In fact, the news story did not explain why Brice was arrested; instead, it emphasized the way she was detained and the consequences of her detention. Nor did it provide any contextual information on why authorities prevented Brice from raising her own daughter, which made the adoption possible. According to information contained in court materials, in September 2009 police arrested Brice at 1 a.m. for being intoxicated while pushing a stroller with her daughter in it. On 10 March 10, Brice’s landlord summoned police to the woman’s apartment, where they found her 22-month-old girl alone, filthy and neglected.
Technique: The journalist selected only those “voices” which were sympathetic with Brice’s position while downplaying any contextual information that might challenge Brice’s narrative or obfuscate her image.
Audience: The citizens of Latvia.
Analysis: Latvia’s media, particularly Russian-language news outlets, have reported extensively on the misfortunes of the former journalist of „Moskovskyj komsomolec”, Laila Brice. Over the past two months, they have expressed explicit or tacit support for Brice. The PBK story, however, illustrates how the case has become an impetus for larger strategic narratives—that is to say, such news demonizes the UK and illuminates the abnormality of juvenile justice as imposed by liberals. Such views color many news stories, echoing Russia’s anti-Western disinformation agenda. They discredit the West (in this specific case, Britain) and demonstrate how mythical liberals threaten imagined traditionalist values, in this case with respect to the upbringing of children. Indeed, the protection of family values, as investigative journalists have demonstrated, has become a salient topic of pro-Russian activists in Latvia. Notably, in recent years Igors Pimenovs, a lawmaker from Harmony—Latvia’s largest Russian ethnic party, which has consistently advocated pro-Kremlin positions—has become the political guardian of Brice’s interests.