Briefs

Estonia - 30 May-5 June 2016

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Object of manipulation: Web page of Estonia’s Russian-language radio channel Russkoe Radio (www.russkoeradio.fm)

Date: 3 June 2016

Title:ООН обвинила власти Украины в массовых пытках” (“The UN has accused Ukrainian authorities of mass torture”)

Source of manipulation: Moscow-based Russian-language online newspaper Lenta.ru

Date: 3 June 2016

Title: “ООН обвинила власти Украины в массовых пытках” (“The UN has accused Ukrainian authorities of mass torture”)

The false fact or narrative: According to Lenta.ru, Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations assistant secretary general for human rights, told the Times of London that a UN report exposes “the scale and brutality of Ukraine’s government-backed torture program for the first time, as well as the existence of five secret government detention centers.”

The truth: The Times article Lenta.ru is referring to (“Kiev allows torture and runs secret jails, says UN”, 03 June 2016) shows that the statement was not made by Simonovic but by the article’s author, Maxim Tucker.

Technique: Changing the source (quotation is correct but the person to which it was attributed has been changed) and partial truth or intentional omission (facts in the article are correct, but not all available facts are included).

Audience: Russkoje Radio’s website gets about 8,000 unique visitors weekly.

Analysis: On 3 June, the UN presented its “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 February to 15 May 2016”—which exposed acts of torture by pro-Russian armed groups as well as the Ukrainian government.  Both the report and the Times article cited by Lenta.ru contained information about torture committed by both sides. However, the article in Lenta.ru omitted information about torture by pro-Russian armed groups. Furthermore, Simonovic never uttered the quote which Lenta.ru attributed to him—neither in the report itself nor at its presentation, during which he mentioned torture three times (at 11:49, at 22:20, and at 29:55 of the YouTube video where these sessions appear. Simonovic did stress that some torture cases have been allegedly committed in areas under the control of armed groups, and that some cases have also been recorded in areas under control of the Kyiv government. Simonic also said the Kyiv side has committed more torture than the pro-Moscow side.

Description of sources: Estonia’s Russkoje Radio is a Russian-language independent radio channel, with the country’s second largest Russian-speaking audience. The channel—with about 137,000 listeners and 8,000 unique web page visitors weekly—belongs to Sky Media group, which is owned in turn by Estonian broadcasting company Taevaraadio OÜ. Lenta.ru is a Russian-language online newspaper published in Russia and owned by Rambler Media Group, a unit of Prof-Media. Usually pro-Kremlin in its reporting, Lenta.ru is one of the most popular Russian-language online resources, with more than 600,000 visitors daily.  In 2014, its owner, Moscow oligarch Alexander Mamut, fired 39 of Lenta’s 84 employees, including the editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, and Director-General Yuliya Minder. All 84 employees signed a statement alleging that the purpose of the firings was to install a new editor-in-chief directly controlled by the Kremlin and turn the website into a propaganda tool.