Disinfo: Western politicians and the media embrace Browder’s story about Magnitsky without even checking it first

Summary

Browder’s Justice for Magnitsky campaign could be presumed to personal revenge against Russia. A campaign that uses the deadly fate of the auditor to punish the country that sued him. Why did Western politicians and the media embrace Browder’s story so easily without even checking it first? Probably because his story is in perfect harmony with the disastrous image of Russia in the West.

Disproof

This case is part of the pro-Kremlin media's ongoing disinformation campaign against Magnitsky sanctions and their chief proponent, Bill Browder accusing him and the West of Russophobia - a disinformation tactic commonly used by pro-Kremlin outlets to deflect criticism about Moscow's policies by painting Russia as the innocent victim of Western antipathy.

As the CEO of Hermitage Capital, once the largest investment firm in Russia, Bill Browder fell afoul of the Russian government in 2005 after exposing the details of a vast $230-million corruption scheme involving several high-ranking Russian officials. While investigating the corruption scheme, Hermitage Capital’s tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested. During his 11-month imprisonment, he was tortured, denied medical care, and ultimately left to die. A Russian investigation concluded that Magnitsky had died of natural causes; the case was then closed and Magnitsky was posthumously convicted of tax evasion. To commemorate Magnitsky, Bill Browder launched a campaign to sanction the individuals involved in his mistreatment and death. This campaign has led the United States and several other countries (the UK, Canada, and the Baltic States) to adopt so-called 'Magnitsky sanctions' that restrict the travel and freeze the assets of individuals who have been involved in human rights abuses and mass corruption.

The case of Sergei Magnitsky has been widely studied by investigative journalists, subjected to investigative TV programs (giving the floor to all protagonists), and examined by the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International which posthumously bestowed its integrity award to Magnitsky. Moreover, in August 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russian authorities “had deprived Sergei Magnitskiy of important medical care and had failed to comply with their duty to protect his life.” The judges unanimously concluded that Magnitsky's treatment in detention violated his human rights, the right to live, right to liberty and security, and right to freedom from torture.

For more disinformation cases on Magnitsky, see here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 177
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 30/11/2019
  • Language/target audience: French
  • Country: UK, Russia, US
  • Keywords: Bill Browder, Sergei Magnitsky, Anti-Russian, Russophobia, Sanctions

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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72.5% of Ukrainians support a compromise between Ukraine and Russia at all costs in order to achieve peace in Donbas

There is a fresh poll of Ukrainians, which shows the following. To the question: “Do you think it is necessary to compromise with Russia and the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics, to achieve peace?” 72.5% of Ukrainians answer yes.

Disproof

Manipulation of the poll results. It is designed to create the narrative that most Ukrainians support achieving peace in Donbas at any cost.

A nationwide public opinion survey was conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation by Ilko Kucheriv in collaboration with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology from 4-19 November 2019. According to it, only 14% of Ukrainians believe that for the sake of peace it is worth agreeing on any compromises. Another 58.5% believe that for the sake of peace it is worth agreeing on compromises, but not all. This position - "compromise, but not all" - is prevalent in all regions of Ukraine.

Internal OPCW e-mail proves that OPCW’s Douma investigation is biased

What really happened on April 7, 2018, in Douma, Syria? The Western version, according to which a chemical attack has been perpetrated by the Syrian army, has become more and more fragile in recent days. It is an email sent by a member of the OPCW mission to Syria,  unveiled by WikiLeaks, which is causing the trouble. According to it, the conclusions would have been distorted in the official report of the OPCW.

There were already the reservations of some journalists in Syria and even that of a producer of the BBC. Now critics are coming from people directly involved in the investigation. An e-mail from one who introduces himself as one of the members of this mission in Syria has been unveiled by Wikileaks. The sender of this email regrets a misleading rewrite of his observations: “By the unintentional omission of certain facts and observations an inadvertent bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility. In fact, some crucial facts that have been maintained in the corrected version have turned into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The core of the problem observed by the author of the e-mail is, in particular, the conclusions about the presence of bottles of chlorine on the scene of the alleged attack.”The initial report underscored the fact that, although the cylinders may have been the source of the suspected release of chemicals, the evidence was insufficient to assert this and it is a major difference with from the redacted report…”

Disproof

WikiLeaks indeed released an email from an employee within the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) indicating that the OPCW "misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground". This email has been used to call into question the impartiality and effectiveness of the OPCW’s conclusion about the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria. But the comparison of the date when it was written and of the points raised in the letter with the OPCW's final report makes it clear that the OPCW addressed these concerns of said employee. Unusually, OPCW issued two reports on Douma, the preliminary and the final ones. The concerns of the said employee have been taken into account in the final report, points out Belingcat.

The e-mail is dated 22 June 2018. Thus, the interim report, published on 6 July 2018, stated that the found cylinders were the likely source of the chlorine or reactive chlorine-containing chemical. The final report published on 1 March 2019 states, however, in paragraph 2.16 that it was “possible that the cylinders were the source of the substances containing reactive chlorine”. See the analysis by Bellingcat of how the concerns of the said employee raised in June 2018, were taken into account in the final OPCW's report released on 6 July 2018.

Western journalism is dominated by Russophobia and prefers fantasy and story-telling to objective reporting

After the Skripal case, even the most respected Western media have increasingly discarded objective reporting and have substituted the latter with Russophobic fantasy stories and spy-fiction. The most recent examples of Russophobic spy-fiction is a Le Monde article, and a previous New York Times article, on an alleged top-secret Russian intelligence unit that engaged in “destabilising activities” throughout Europe.

Western journalism, and many aspects of Western culture, are increasingly Russophobic, Sinophobic and phobic towards any actor that is critical of dominant Western globalist thinking. Russia can be accused without any argument or evidence to support the accusations, and it is up to Russia to prove its innocence. The Western media system has deteriorated, it is no longer based on objective information but on scandals, accusations, commercial considerations and geopolitical motivations.

Disproof

No evidence is given. Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the spread of Russophobia in Western media, which also allegedly censors views that are critical of dominant Western narratives. A second recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative aims at discrediting investigative journalists that research Kremlin-sponsored, hostile, influence activities in the West, by claiming they are Russophobic and that their investigations are based on false information and dubious sources.

The Western media cannot be described as “Russophobic” nor as dominated by a ruling “globalist paradigm”. Media in pluralist democracies represent a wide range of political opinions and do not have a single editorial policy for any country or topic. Several journalistic investigations on topics such as the Skripal case have been based on serious research work and can in no way be described as “Russophobic”.