‘So it WAS Putin?’ Fleet Street again twists MH17 coverage

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
© Maxim Zmeyev
The destruction of MH17 was an appalling tragedy. Using it to score cheap points insults the victims.

Once again, the British press has decided to become judge, jury and executioner in the MH17 catastrophe. A role they first appointed themselves to in July of 2014. Back then, the Sun’s infamous front page headline “Putin’s Missile” led the charge.

READ MORE: MH17 downed in Ukraine: What has happened in 365 days since the crash

“So it WAS Putin?” says London’s Daily Express now, following the release of a statement by the Joint Investigation Team saying that it is investigating “several parts, possibly originating from a Buk surface-air-missile system.”

The Guardian goes with “Flight MH17: fragments from site could be Russian-made missile, say Dutch prosecutors.” Meanwhile, the BBC exclaims: “MH17: ‘Russian missile parts’ at Ukraine crash site.”“Russian missile shrapnel in MH17 wreckage,” bellows the London Times.

Just over a year after ‘Fleet Street’ disgraced itself in a post-MH17 tabloid frenzy, editors have learned nothing. Little wonder that UK newspaper sales are in free-fall.

While that could have been partially excused in the heat of the moment, this new misinformation campaign is less reactionary and more organized.

A short report

The Onderzoeksraad Voor Veiligheid (Dutch Safety Board) is responsible for the Dutch MH17 investigation. At no stage in Tuesday’s brief news update did the DSB imply that Russia shot down MH17. In fact, their four-paragraph notification never mentioned Russia at all. Nor did it cite the East Ukrainian rebels or reference the Kiev government, for that matter. In fact, it didn’t name anyone.

READ MORE: MH17 investigators to RT: No proof east Ukraine fragments from ‘Russian’ Buk missile

What the DSB did say was that “several parts, possibly originating from a Buk surface-air-missile-system… have been secured during a previous recovery-mission in Eastern Ukraine and are in [the] possession of the criminal investigation team [responsible for] MH17 and the Dutch Safety Board.”

In a clear attempt to heed off misinterpretation of their statement, the DSB added: “At present the conclusion cannot be drawn that there is a causal connection between the discovered parts and the crash of flight MH17.”

In other words, the DSB is saying that it’s POSSIBLE that parts from a Buk missile launcher in Eastern Ukraine are now in their custody. There is no guarantee that they are (a) in anyway related to the shoot-down of MH17 or (b) even Buk parts at all.

Double Dutch

Despite the best efforts of the DSB, the UK media has essentially laughed in their faces and twisted their words. The British public are being fed a massive onslaught of pure propaganda. This is almost as bad as when, earlier this year, The Daily Mail reported that “Vladimir Putin ordered Russian special forces to steal MH370 and secretly landed it at huge space port in Kazakhstan.”

MH370 was the other unfortunate Malaysia Airlines flight of 2014. Last week we learned that parts of its fuselage may have washed up in the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion. Reunion is approximately 7,700 kilometers (4,785 miles) from Kazakhstan, about the same distance as New York is from Rio de Janeiro. The Daily Mail based its ridiculous story on the comments of a CNN pundit. CNN is to serious analysis what Justin Bieber is to John Lennon.  

While UK newspapers tried to outdo each other in a race to the bottom, the main US outlets were somewhat more careful on Tuesday. MSNBC and CBS merely spoke of “Russian-made missiles.” However, Washington’s propaganda bullhorn RFE/RL went for “Evidence Of Possible Russian Missiles In MH17 Tragedy.”

About those missiles. Yes, Buk missiles are made in Russia. In much the same way that Toyota cars hail from Japan and BMW is German. If, god forbid, a jaywalker was killed by a Prius driver, would the tabloids exclaim “Japanese car mows down pedestrian?” Of course, they wouldn’t. Yet, they feel emboldened to use suggestions of Buk fragments in East Ukraine as sufficient proof to blame Russia – and its President personally – for the MH17 disaster. Standards are now that low.

Arms Exports

Buk missiles, unwieldy Cold War relics, are used all around the world. India, Finland, China and Russia are among the countries operating them. Another is Ukraine. MH17 was, of course, shot down over Ukraine. Thus, even if the DSB establishes that they have discovered proof that Buks were present in East Ukraine, it doesn’t mean that they were Russian-operated.

Between them, Russia and the US are responsible for 58% of global arms exports (31% and 27% respectively). Hence, whenever a weapon is fired anywhere in the world, there’s a better than even money chance that it was made in one of the planet’s two military superpowers.

The UK media knew that the Dutch Safety Board hadn’t confirmed that the Buk was Russian. Indeed, they were aware that the DSB was not 100 percent sure it had a Buk. They also know that Ukraine has Russian-made missiles.

Instead of delivering balanced coverage to their dwindling band of readers, they went for high-impact headlines. In doing so, they chipped away at more of the veneer of fair-play that was once a British hallmark. They also further increased Russia’s – well founded – anger at how it is portrayed in the West.

The UK media is fond of describing RT as a ‘Kremlin propaganda tool.’ This comes with varying degrees of menace and indignation. As the latest MH17 newspaper headlines show, if they are looking for propaganda, they need only look closer to home.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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