Crimean media covered the situation with the coronavirus pandemic in Crimea, mainly using data of the occupation authorities. The evidence for this is results of the monitoring by the Crimean Human Rights Group held in April-June 2020.
The study was based on sites which editorial offices or journalists are currently working on the territory of the peninsula.
In total, 15 sites publishing regularly the information about the situation with the pandemic in Crimea were identified to be studied.
On these sites, publications were reviewed using the following key queries: “coronavirus Crimea”, “COVID-19 Crimea”, “pandemic Crimea”, “coronavirus Sevastopol”, “COVID-19 Sevastopol”, “pandemic Sevastopol”.
The sample includes texts published by the above mentioned sites from April 1 to April 7, from May 1 to May 7 and from June 1 to June 7, 2020.
In total, for the intervals studied, using the Google search engine 752 publications were found on these sites based on the selected key queries, and representatives of the Russian or subordinate Crimean de facto authorities are mentioned or cited in 93% of them. Alternative points of view are not presented in such materials. No critical publication was recorded among those selected for the monitoring.
For instance, 276 articles were found on these sites for the above key queries within the first seven days of April.
250 articles among them dealt with the actions of the Russian or occupation authorities related to the pandemic, that makes 90.5% of the total number of publications on this topic.
253 articles were published on these sites for the above key queries within the first seven days of May.
245 articles among them dealt with the actions of the Russian or occupation authorities related to the pandemic, that makes 96.8% of the total number of publications on this topic.
223 articles were published on these sites for the above key queries within the first seven days of June.
211 articles among them dealt with the actions of the Russian or occupation authorities related to the pandemic, that makes 94.6% of the total number of publications on this topic.
Russian President V. Putin is mentioned in at least 41 of these publications, the “head” of Crimea Aksionov – in 130, the Crimean “Ministry of Internal Affairs” – in 60, Rospotrebnadzor – in 177. Information on fines is presented in 55 articles. The word “authorities” has been recorded in 151 publications, the Russian or local “government” is mentioned in 155 articles.
These news reports quote also the heads of the city occupation administrations, and mention “speaker” of Crimea Konstantinov and the “governor” of Sevastopol Razvozhaev. The articles present numerous news releases of different Crimean ‘government’ ministries on the situation with disease incidence, the data of occupation authorities on economic situation changes and payouts.
At the same time, the quotes of public and security officials in these articles are not questioned or criticized. There are no alternative points of view in such publications.
And only 46 of the publications selected for monitoring presented the information not related to citing Russian and subordinate Crimean public and security officials. In these articles, the authors were describing the state of the local infrastructure, the working hours of various institutions and establishments, and also quoting experts. There is not a single critical publication among all the selected.
It is important to point out that these publications include texts in which standards of completeness, accuracy and reliability are violated.
For example, the publication of KRYM Republican Information Agency ‘Nothing But the Wind – What Is Situation at the Border of Crimea and Ukraine – photo” reports that the passage of people to Crimea seems to be have been banned completely by Ukraine (that does not correspond to the real situation). At the same time, the source of such information is not indicated; the author of the publication, instead, states obscurely “according to the latest information”.
Sometimes authors ask the people who are not experts in the field to comment the pandemic situation.
For instance, MK KRYM website, in the article titled ‘Most Dangerous Days of 2020 Identified’, the situation with the pandemic is commented by an astrologist.
One of the publications at KRYM 24 website on using protective masks during the pandemic is fully composed of an illusionist’s quotation.
Some materials present conflicting information. For example, the website of KRYM RIA RIA Crimea placed a publication entitled “When Outbreak of Coronavirus in Russia Ends – Forecast from Singapore”. The authors first state that scientists have given an accurate forecast about the time when the pandemic will end in the Russian Federation, but in the next sentence they add “but this is not certain”.
Thus, the overwhelming majority of information about the pandemic in the Crimean media quote representatives of the occupation authorities without any alternative points of view on the situation presented. The absolute absence of critical materials in the popular online information media of Crimea and a number of violations of journalism standards when covering such a serious issue as pandemic jeopardize the situation with people’s access to objective and reliable information about the spread of the disease dangerous to the life and health of Crimeans.
We would remind that since the beginning of April 2019, the Russian authorities have imposed serious restrictions on media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby effectively closing the opportunity for local journalists to produce critical publications about the pandemic. This refers not only to administrative articles (new article 20.6.1 of the RF CAO and amended articles 6.3 and 13.15 of the RF CAO), but also the threat of criminal persecution (articles 207.1, 207.2, 236 of the RF Criminal Code).
The situation is becoming worse as the Russian Federation not only continues, but also is intensifying the consistent disruption of independent Ukrainian media broadcasting in Crimea.
Such actions significantly limit access of Crimean residents to the information of independent Ukrainian online media and FM radio stations. Under the pandemic situation, such a policy of Russia in Crimea, in fact, is blocking the independent information about the situation with the pandemic in Ukraine and Crimea, on which the life and health of people can depend directly.
Such actions of the Russian Federation are unacceptable and constitute a serious restriction of access to information for the residents of the peninsula. The blocking of Ukrainian media should be stopped immediately, and the journalists should be ensured freedom to produce professional publications on the situation with the coronavirus spread on the territory of Crimea.