#JesuisBBC: Poroshenko bans western journalists from Ukraine

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko © Andrew Kravchenko
Maidan is eating itself: President Poroshenko has distracted the Western media from its important role as a cheerleader for his government. Banning BBC journalists was a big mistake for the chocolate king.

Crazy rulers are not a new phenomenon. Back in the 6th Century, the Byzantine Emperor, Justin II was forced to abdicate after he began devouring people.

Then there was King Charles VI of France who refused to bathe because he believed he was made from glass.

Also, lest we forget Russia’s own Feodor I who used to wander the country ringing church bells. For fun.

Justin developed a taste for flesh by biting lesser folk while being pushed around on a wheeled throne. There is no record of the Emperor eating himself. However, Ukraine’s ‘Maidan’ government is doing this now. The coup, or ‘revolution’ if you prefer, has turned cannibal.

If you were a PR adviser to Ukraine’s leaders and they asked you to compile a list of things they must not do, banning journalists would be high up there. Perhaps even at number one. While those who understand Ukraine know that the regime is even worse than its horrible predecessor, Western media has not reported this reality. Hence, the general public in Europe and North America doesn’t have the foggiest notion. Firing cluster bombs at civilians would be prominent too. Nevertheless, Kiev has already done that. Luckily for them, the western press doesn’t seem to mind.

On Wednesday night, President Poroshenko signed a decree banning 388 people from Ukraine. That was not a major surprise. After all, the Kiev government has been jailing domestic critics for some time. Like Ruslan Kotsaba for instance. So banning a few hundred Russians and others from minor Eastern European nations like Poland or Hungary, would barely get any attention.

Why Steve Rosenberg?

However, Poroshenko included 41 international journalists and bloggers on his blacklist. They came from countries as diverse as Germany, Israel, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. If they had been fringe hacks, Western media representatives in Kiev and Moscow would have merely stroked their hipster beards. A few might have even expressed regret. One or two might have made a half-hearted attempt to get a “#jesuis” hashtag going on Twitter.

Poroshenko wasn’t that smart. The billionaire president of Europe’s poorest country (per capita) decided to go for a few really big fish. Wielding his oligarchical pen, he signed a decree that included two prominent BBC journalists: Steve Rosenberg and Emma Wells. The reason? For being a “threat to national interests”.


I’ve never met Steve Rosenberg. He may be the nicest man since Gandhi. Or a bad egg. I’ve no idea. Emma Wells used to work for RT, before joining the BBC. Again, I haven’t interacted with her.

This is not the point. The fact is that Rosenberg, Wells and the entire BBC team have been more than fair to the Maidan regime. Many would say too kind altogether. While the BBC, unlike most Western outlets, make some attempts to show both sides in Ukraine’s civil war, it is pretty obvious that the network sympathizes with Poroshenko’s administration. As does the British government, with great enthusiasm. Indeed, a number of BBC employees are openly hostile to Russia. That usually goes down well in Kiev.

Take for example, BBC World Service news editor Olexiy Solohubenko. The intrepid Olexiy has been running a one-man Twitter propaganda campaign for the Maidan crew for almost two years, blocking and ridiculing critics of the coup. Strangely, Olexiy didn’t take to Twitter last night to support his BBC colleagues. On the other side of the coin, the BBC’s Fergal Keane brought guile and nuance to coverage of the Donbas conflict that beat hacks could not match in a million years.

Rosenberg seems a curious choice for Poroshenko’s conniption. He has never exhibited any signs of being particularly pro-Russian. Indeed, only 13 months ago, he was framing Russian troop movements on Russian territory as something sinister.

That white truck is a DAF commercial lorry, by the way, not a Kamaz. Also, a BBC team headed by Rosenberg were allegedly attacked in southern Russia last year.

The Spanish angle

Meanwhile, Poroshenko didn’t stop at the BBC. He also banned two prominent Spanish journalists, Antonio Jose Rodriguez Pampliega and Ángel Sastre of El Pais. Sadly, neither Antonio or Angel are likely to visit Ukraine any time soon. Both are missing in Syria, presumed captured by ISIS. Their families probably could have done without Poroshenko’s insensitivity and downright stupidity.

There are also a number of Russian reporters and bloggers on the chocolate king’s list –one that is more Schindler’s than Willy Wonka’s. The BBC’s Daniel Sandford did not seem concerned about them. In a Twitter exchange with RT’s social media chief, Ivor Crotty, he said: “it would be hard to use words “honourable” and “excellent” to describe LifeNews coverage for example.” I’m no fan of LifeNews myself but you are either for press freedom or you are not. If you are, you cannot divide journalists into different categories to suit yourself.

Herein lies the whole problem. When Russian journalists of great integrity like Andrey Mironov were killed in Ukraine, their Western colleagues, with some exceptions, showed little solidarity. Whether they see Russians as some kind of untermensch or simply don’t care is unclear. Nevertheless, there has been more noise about two BBC journalists receiving bans from Ukraine than there has been about numerous Russian reporters being murdered.

Nothing is real, not much is possible

That said, rather than angrily condemning Poroshenko’s move, Western hacks on the Russia/Ukraine beat used puzzling language. “Worrying,” said Mashable’s Christopher Miller.

Freelancer Oliver Carroll, frequently seen in The Independent, felt it was “quite a pickle”.

The pair then hooked up with the American neocon activist Michael Weiss to soft-soap Poroshenko’s foolishness.

Kiev has been harassing, blacklisting and imprisoning reporters since the Maidan coup. Reporters hostile to the regime have even been murdered, like the unfortunate Oles Buzina. All along, their Western peers have turned a blind eye. Last night, they shamefully attempted to exculpate Poroshenko for his blacklist by pinning the blame on his ‘advisers.’ Do they really imagine that he wasn’t told that there were BBC journalists on the list? If he wasn’t and he signed it without even glancing at the 388 names on it, he’s a bigger fool than we ever imagined.

Poroshenko will probably backtrack. Some minor lackey will take the blame. Then the Western media can get back to the important things. Like wholeheartedly supporting the pro-US/NATO administration in Kiev and ignoring its sins. It’d be a lot more productive if a number of journalists stared into a very large mirror for a long time.

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