UK media show weakness for sensationalism & propaganda in wake of MH17 tragedy

Debris is pictured at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, near the village of Grabovo in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Bryan MacDonald

There are no words in the English lexicon which can properly summarize the horrors of events yesterday in Eastern Ukraine. Like all right-thinking people around the world I am aghast and I currently have a nauseating tightness in my stomach as I pen this.

Since Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur came down in fragments on the blood-soaked soil of Ukraine, media, both old and new, has been caught in a torrent of claim and counter-claim on an unprecedented scale. Retired journalists with decades of experience say they have never seen anything quite like the propaganda and misinformation which has spewed in the last 24 hours.

Let’s stick to the facts. The most pertinent one is that 298 people should have landed in Kuala Lumpur by now but instead they are dead and their bodies are scattered around Ukraine’s war spoiled soil. We do not know why the accident happened and we won’t know until an investigation is carried out — unless somebody admits shooting it down in the interim and their claims can be verified.

Until either of those scenarios comes to pass, anybody offering a view on what occurred is voicing an opinion, not a fact. I have my own theory and anybody with a passing interest in the Ukrainian conflict or aviation will have theirs and that’s exactly what they are — opinions, not facts.

Russian media was full of reports of differing scenarios yesterday and Western correspondents decried many of them as propaganda. Journalists from the UK and the USA (and other NATO-aligned countries) regularly accuse the Russian press of being a propaganda tool for the Kremlin and they mean more or less all outlets of expression when they say that.

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