“A country that cannot face its past has no future.” – Yang Jisheng
Recently, someone asked me about how I keep my journalistic integrity when I cover Ukraine and get so close to traumatic events. I said firstly, ethics in school and ethics in reality are not the same. American journalists do a lot of harm, serving the corporate media and not the public welfare, without taking any responsibility.
I believe in “truth” and “accuracy,” but we no longer live in a world of objectivity. Journalists are supposed to remain detached, and for the most part I feel it is possible to keep a strict separation. However, the crucial concept of the neutrality of journalists also depends on all sides recognizing that neutrality.
During the Black Lives Matters marches of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I saw police specifically target photojournalists in Milwaukee and around the country. If American law enforcement officers classified American journalists as enemies by default, how can journalism remain objective?
Amid the daily grind of propaganda and lies, some journalists have become the first line of defense to filter the flood of disinformation.
There are not two equal sides to every issue. Yet, I have seen conspiracy theory nutjobs given equal time on issues that are not comparable, and how great harm was caused by that spotlight in the interest of media “fairness.”
To be sure, some media does have an agenda. But claims of not having an agenda, and then exercising no social responsibility can be equally detrimental. Harm is caused, regardless of intent or accident.
There were two sides to the American Civil War, and both sides were equally passionate about their righteousness. But if I were a reporter then, I would not give Confederates equal time to express why slavery was a Christian institution.
Yet, that is actually happening today in America, particularly in Florida. The horrific history of slavery has again been whitewashed. Why is there so much fear of the truth? Until we face our past, how can we ever move forward?
With that in mind, what obligation do I have to present the Russian government’s view? How is the American public served by inflating lies? It is firmly established that Putin worked to destabilize America by supporting Trump’s rigged presidential election in 2016. In justification of their unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, all the people they claim an interest in liberating are basically all the people they have blindly slaughtered.
So, in the case of Ukraine, I am not prejudiced against Russia. I just see only one side. Ukraine is the victim and Russia, at every step, has proven that it is a monster.
While the average Russian citizen may not support their government, they have not joined together to collectively stop the actions. There are Russian civilians dying along the frontline areas, but even that is an unequal comparison. Russians do suffer, but they have not lived under terror bombings each night for a year and a half, or seen their cities flattened. They have not experienced unthinkable war crimes.
The Russians who are affected are victims of their leader Putin, not Ukraine, and would be alive if not for their own nation’s insanity.
As journalists are being jailed, beaten, and killed around the world “simply for trying to do their work with honor and integrity,” I am absolutely unapologetic on this professional attitude.
And I would offer, as a reminder, an example from the 1960s. When American journalists reported on the views of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War – giving them equal time and consideration, they were considered traitors by the American public.
How can any American call themselves a “patriot” and then be critical of American journalists for, what they claim to be, unfair news reports about Russia? What is the value of expressing Russia’s side of the story, except to further its propaganda and cause harm to Ukraine, America, and the world? Unless, of course, that is exactly what those “patriots” want.
Vadim Ghirda (AP)