Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The war against a free flow of information

The Internet was invented to provide a free flow of information. It was not supposed to be censored so that lies could parade as the truth

As someone who writes for a Russian newspaper, and as someone who has been reporting on international events over the last few decades, I am sensitive to the need for a free flow of information. As someone who treats his readers like adults, I have never, even once, reported information which I believed was false.

And I can go further. I have, more than once, been offered money and dirt to tarnish the reputation of world-famous figures, including images and videos of sexual scandals, stories which would have made me a pretty penny at times in my life when the pretty penny would have been welcome. Do you know what I did? I refused the cash and refused the evidence. Why?

For the same reason that during my finalist exams at school I found myself isolated in a room, locked inside, because due to the subjects I had chosen, there was a clash and I could not sit two exams at the same time, so they let me do the first one then locked me away for the second, immediately afterwards, so that I did not have contact with the other students who had sat the exam. More than that, I realised that inadvertently, I had in my pocket papers with the answers to all the questions. If I had looked, nobody would have known. But I would. I remember sitting there for a few minutes thinking, come on Tim you can get 100% in this and get into your first choice University.

But then I thought, no. That is dishonest, it is cheating and it is totally unfair on everyone else. So I did not look at the papers. The sequel to the story is that I got 80% but indeed that was not enough to get into my top choice University but the reason I failed admission was because of mathematics at a lower level, so I went to my second choice out of five and I can say that my academic career there shaped the rest of my life.

Integrity and decency

And I can go even further, now we are into the truth. At one time in my life, I was unemployed. And homeless. Too proud to ask “Papa” for cash and anyway two thousand miles away from home, sweeping up vegetables from the market floor to make soup and asking for fish heads to use as bait to go fishing, to make some money and enrich the soup. During this time I was offered a dirt story on a very famous singer which would have made me a lot of money. I was down and out, poor, hungry, no roof over my head. I declined the offer which was met with a string of insults and name-calling “imbecile, idiot, jerk, stupid...I will make sure you never do anything in journalism”. That was forty years ago and I pulled myself up through hard work, very hard work. And as I reply to the emails questioning my journalistic register, my journalism is such crap that I bought a farm out of it.

So when I am reporting on events, I am honest, as I always have been. When I give someone my word, it means something. I have never, ever committed any act which means that I cannot go round any corner anywhere on Earth at any time and meet anyone eye-to-eye, and not have to lower my gaze.

Therefore it infuriates me when I write a piece and receive death threats, threats to murder my dog, strings of insults and the like, which is as ridiculous as it is totally unacceptable and wholly unfair.

The EU prectises fascism: Censorship

And what do I see before me today? In the context of this special military operation in Ukraine, I see from day one the fascist practice of censorship by the European Union and other countries which have cut out several Russian news outlets. I see cyber terrorist attacks committed daily against the other outlets still in operation. I see social media pages being arbitrarily closed because they report the facts. And I see lies, hate-mongering and Russophobic stances which do nothing to foster peace and reconciliation, rather they fan the flames of vitriol. This, from countries which perpetrated the most shocking acts in Iraq (Shock and Awe, remember?) and Libya.

So instead of reporting lies, let us respect both sides by reporting the truth. Facts, not fiction. Why? So that we treat readers like adults and allow them to form their own opinion. And crucially, so that we create a climate of reconciliation so that generations of kids don't grow up hating each other.

Fact 1: Tears taste of salt, whoever sheds them

Fact 2: Nobody likes being invaded

Fact 3: Nobody likes to see family members killed

Fact 4: In the case of Georgia, Georgia attacked South Ossetia and murdered Russian peace-keepers, first. Russia conducted a very limited raid and today South Ossetia and Abkhazia live in peace. Georgia never implemented its responsibilities under the Third Soviet Constitution as regards nationality issues.

Fact 5. In 2014 there was an unconstitutional putsch in Kiev which ousted the democratically elected President, Yanukovich. None of the three conditions for his destitution were in place at the time. Inside the Putschists were Fascists.

Fact 6: Fascist massacres occurred in southern and Eastern Ukraine, in which people wearing Swastikas attacked Russian-speaking civilians.

Fact 7: The lines on the maps changed but the people remained. Kiev banned Russian language and culture so that Russian-speakers could not enjoy their tongue and culture in their daily lives, institutions and schools, freely.

Fact 8: The Ukrainian Armed Forces were attacking Donbass daily for eight years from 2014 to 2022. Around 14.000 civilians were murdered.

Fact 9: Ukraine signed the Minsk Agreements in 2015 in which Russia proposed a peace agreement among Ukraine and the two Donbass republics. Ukraine signed.

Fact 10: Ukraine refused to implement the terms of Minsk which would have seen Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics living inside Ukraine with their cultural and linguistic rights and their physical integrity intact.

Fact 11: The Azov Battalion, composed of Fascists strutting around in Swastikas, is integrated in the official armed forces of Ukraine. Where else do you find that? This is an insult to the whole of Europe and to all those who suffered under that bloody sign. And these fascists dare to play the victim? Are they joking with us or what?

Fact 12: Ukraine made noises about joining NATO and getting nukes. What for? 

Fact 13: NATO encroached eastwards after promising that it would not. What for?

Fact 14: NATO was holding exercises on Russia’s borders, building up troops, sending equipment to Ukraine and had military personnel in Ukraine. What for?

Fact 15: Russia did not annex Crimea. In the absence of the figure of State with the legal competence to enforce the law (Yajukovich) the entity which substituted him was the Assembly of the Republic of Crimea which organised a free and fair democratic election, in which the (Russian) people of Crimea voted to return to Russia.

Fact 16; Bucha. The Ukrainian side is accusing Russia of a massacre. The Russian side reports that its troops left on March 30th and there was not one single civilian casualty reported. Four days later, there appear suddenly  bodies of civilians laying across the road. Russia denies having anything to do with it. If true, why wait four days to report it?

Fact 17: From the beginning, the objective of this operation was to avoid civilian areas and casualties

Fact 18: From the beginning, the objective was not to take Ukrainian cities but to tie the armed forces down while Donbass was recuperated and downgrade the military capacity of Ukraine

Fact 19: The military equipment which NATO sold to Ukraine was destroyed by the Russian forces in 48 hours

Fact 20: A picture of a destroyed part of a Ukrainian city circulating on the Net was in fact taken in Kentucky, USA, a slum

Fact 21: A damaged hotel allegedly tweeted by a major western news outlet was in fact taken in Serbia (probably the victim of a NATO attack on civilian structures)

Face 22: “Ukrainian missiles destroy Russian helicopters”. Yeah right, taken from a video game

Fact 23: Ukrainian firefighters tackle blaze. In Tasmania?

Fact 24: Pic of Russian soldiers, in fact the Kenyan Defence Force

Fact 25: A Russian tank firing at civilian structures. Yeah right, again from a video game

Fact 26: The USA says there were no pathogens in biolabs. The World Health Organization told Ukraine to destroy pathogens in biolabs...which didn't exist?

Fact 27: Child soldiers ready to fight Russians. Picture from Azov Battalion (the fascists strutting around in Swastikas) in 2014

Fact 28: The Ukrainian soldier kissing his wife goodbye. It was a Slovakian soldier taken in 2012.

Fact 29: The bombing of the hospital in Mariupol with babies buried under the rubble. It was not bombed, it was strafed with ground artillery. The Russians deny having had anything to do with this. The woman holding the baby crying is a Ukrainian blogger called Marianna Podgurskaya and the photo was a montage

Fact 30: The old man with the cat? Yes, Turkey, 2018.

Now this is what happens when you practise censorship. Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies. And more lies. Drip by drip, drop by drop, the daily fix of pure unadulterated bullshit. It creates hatred. Hatred kills people.

So once again let us all tell the truth here, treat our readers like adults, stop selling hatred, start reporting the truth and respect all sides by hearing all sides of the argument. That is what I am doing here. Does anyone think that stoking the flames of hatred is going to help foster a process of peace and reconciliation?

Solution: Ukraine calls urgent pace talks, agrees to stop attacking Donbass, agrees to not have nukes or join NATO, agrees to allow for the practise of Russian language and culture among Russian-speaking Ukrainians, agrees to stop using violence against its own citizens, agrees to disband the Fascist elements in its own armed forces, agrees not to have foreign military bases on its territory. Not that difficult, is it? In return, it gets to join the European Union. A trading agreement, not a military one. Then the Donbass republics, Crimea, Moldova, Belarus and Russia have frontiers with the EU, not with NATO.

And then hopefully the international media will follow my lead in promoting peace and reconciliation and not peddle hatred. I doubt that they will.

Tears taste of salt. Families hurt, Russians and Ukrainians alike. Hatred kills.

Source: Some of these fact checks taken from maldita.es which is a fact finding hub

Timothy Bancrtoft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]

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