Navalny – banned and Guardian reporting

Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation and political networks have been banned by court order.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation along with his political network, have been found by a court in Moscow, at the request of the prosecutor, to be violating Russia’s laws on extremism. The organisations have been banned. In a separate move a law has been passed in the State Duma which will prevent anyone who has been involved in an extremist organisation from participating in elections for a period of time. This move will prevent people who were involved in the now banned organisations from standing in the upcoming (Autumn) Parliamentary elections under a new banner. [1]

This is the Guardian’s report on the banning in Russia of Alexei Navalny’s organisations. Andrew Roth has certainly studied the argument of the defence. (Most likely he has been briefed by the defence). The argument is that the law on extremism requires that the offence be accompanied by violence or the threat of violence and in this case the prosecutor has not established that – or even, indeed, tried to.

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How does the Telegraph treat Navalny?

Usually I comment on the misinformation in the Guardian and Independent about Russia. But I strayed today over to the Telegraph. In this article there are some ‘points of misinformation’ but overall this is much better reporting that in the the Guardian and Independent – where extreme confirmation bias leads to a fake narrative. Comments:

The closest the activist came to an elected position was in 2013, when he stood for mayor of Moscow against Kremlin-backed candidate Sergei Sobyanin, scoring around 30 percent in a vote he said was tainted by fraud

This of course isn’t a lie. It could be said to be straight reporting. On the other hand; of course Navalny says that the election he lost was “tainted by fraud”. It is part of his strategy to do this. And it seems to be part of the format of liberal reporting to always give the point of view and explanations of the Navalny camp and to take them at face value. In reality it may well be that Navalny simply didn’t have enough support in Moscow. The idea in always repeating these ‘claims’ is of course to keep Navalny’s campaign alive. (The independently owned magazine ‘Morning’ published an article with multiple political observers saying that the elections were unusually fair [1]).

Five years later he attempted to run against Mr Putin for the presidency but was kept off the ballot paper because of a controversial conviction for embezzlement. Authorities have since resurrected that charge and are using it as the basis for his current detention.

This is not true. “Authorities” have not “resurrected” an old charge. Navalny’s probation for that conviction has been extended – before the current poisoning incident and apparently in line with Russian law. [2]

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False news about Navalny in the Guardian

No real surprises here. This is the Guardian report about Navalny’s stated intention to return to Moscow. From the point of view of journalism it has two major faults. Firstly, it accepts and reports as fact some rather unlikely claims made by Navalny. Good journalism makes it clear when something is established fact and when something is a claim made by an interested party. With Navalny it seems, whatever he (or ‘Bellingcat’) says is taken as fact. The reason for this is that he is against the Kremlin. The second problem is that in one respect at least it consciously misleads readers.

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Navalny poisoning

This the Guardian announcing that Navalany was poisoned by the Kremlin.

While Berlin’s Charité hospital did not identify the specific poison responsible for Navalny’s sudden illness on an internal Russian flight last Thursday, the substance was part of a group that affects the central nervous system, and includes nerve agents and pesticides, as well as some drugs.

The statement was the first medical corroboration of a poisoning attack on Navalny and marked him as likely the latest Kremlin opponent to face an attempt on his life.

Assuming that the report of the hospital’s statement is correct then the conclusion does not follow. It would appear that Andrew Roth too is joining Luke Harding’s “join the dots” school of journalism. Continue reading “Navalny poisoning”