Journalists have a substantial responsibility to write the truth. Or, least to do their level best to do so.
In a nominal democracy where public opinion influences (even slightly) public policy people who are in a position to form public opinion have a particularly strong responsibility to write the truth.
Unfortunately many journalists in the West, much of the time, either due to laziness or due to deliberately malign intent write propaganda. They produce the narrative that power wants to see produced. They don’t dig behind the given narrative of power to get at the truth. They, precisely, neglect their true function.
This is an example from the Guardian. It is a report on the recent renewed fighting in Eastern Ukraine. It is a typical piece of Western media propaganda of the kind that floods the press day in day out. It is reasonably well-written. Where it quotes checkable facts (as in “someone said such and such”) the facts check out. At the same time it gives a one-sided version of events. Naturally, the version preferred by Western power mechanisms. It does this by a) missing out the context, b) using loaded language to generate the narrative, c) selective reporting of facts and d) in place of reportage much of the article is add-on narrative and interpretation.
The background to the article is that fighting has broken out again between the forces of the (self-proclaimed) DPR and LPR and Kiev in Ukraine. The narrative preferred by the West on Ukraine is that Russia is to blame for everything. This has to be the narrative because it absolves the West from its responsibility in forcing the conflict in Ukraine and is the only way that the West will “win”, that is secure the whole pie of Ukraine into the EU and NATO. That the vast majority of people in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine do not want to join the EU or NATO  – and thus were wholly unrepresented by the February 2014 coup in Kiev – is simply air-brushed out of reality. That is, the wishes and feelings of millions of Ukrainians don’t count. They are the wrong wishes from the perspective of Western liberals and so Western liberals have no qualms ignoring them.
Turning to the article. There is the usual use of loaded terms. The local militias are described as “Russia-backed separatists”. This neatly eliminates any need to pay attention to the democratic reality. People in the East of Ukraine do not want to join the EU and NATO. The political party of the deposed President Viktor Yanukovych was most strongly supported in the East.  When Yanukovych was chased out of office by a Western-backed mob burning policemen (or, of course, “peaceful protestors singing hymns”) the people in the East were in democratic terms disenfranchised. Russia may indeed be “backing” the militias. But to describe the militias as “Russia-backed”, and thus to frame them in terms of their link to Russia, is to mask and hide the legitimate and rational aspirations of the people in this region. The fact is the militia leaders in Donbas have signed up to a political agreement (Minsk 2) which envisages autonomy but not independence. It is therefore factually wrong to describe them as “separatists”. “Russian-backed separatists” as a term specifically serves to mask the legitimate aspirations of people in the East of Ukraine and thus to mask the anti-democratic nature of the Western power-grab in Ukraine.
In this case the US State Department has not blamed Russia for the current uptick in violence.
The article naturally manages to find a source which supports the narrative:
The state department statement was markedly different in tone to comments from the US mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is staffed by career diplomats and may be out of step with the new mood in Washington.
“Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avdiivka,” said the US chargé d’affaires to the OSCE, Kate Byrnes. “We call on Russia to stop the violence, honour the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons and end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact.”
A look at the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine report for 30/1/17 seems to show multiple violations by both sides to the conflict.  Both sides are moving heavy weapons around in violation of the Minsk agreements. Both sides appear to be shelling the other side. The State Department’s version, in a refreshing departure from the “blame Russia” narrative, is closer to the actual OSCE reports. This may not last for long, however.
The Guardian journalist gives the last word to an outgoing official from the last administration:
Diplomats who served during the Obama administration have cautioned against making deals with Russia. “For almost three years the United States has worked closely with our European partners to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict through full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including by using sanctions to encourage Putin to comply,” said Dan Baer, formerly the US ambassador to the OSCE. “This should continue to be US policy going forward; anything else would be irresponsible.”
The destabilisation of Ukraine by the US and EU – who did everything possible to manipulate the shift of Ukraine away from Russia and to the West including the completely shameless signing of the political part of the EU Association agreement with a regime which came to power in a violent coup – is not mentioned in this narrative. The lack of concrete steps by the new regime in Kiev towards implementing the Minsk agreements including a refusal to talk to the other side is also absent from this absurd narrative. But it’s the one that Western liberals mean to stick to if they possibly can.
Another major lacuna on the part of the Western media and Guardian journalists like Shaun Walker, who wrote the article discussed here, is the economic blockade  conducted by the regime in Kiev against its own citizens in the areas under control by the DPR and LPR. The blockade is notable for its refusal to pay pensions to elderly residents of these areas. One can scarcely imagine the horror and outrage that we would see in the Western media were Russia to be implementing such a blockade on a region within Russia. Yet this blockade is scarcely mentioned in the Western media.
One final irony. The Guardian is constantly telling its readers about the lack of media freedom in Russia. But we can note that this propagandist and anti-Russian article was written by a journalist who is based in Moscow and who is, presumably able to carry on his work without being harassed by the FSB. And the same article can be read by anyone in Russia with an Internet connection. (The Guardian is not blocked in Russia).
1. Gallup Poll. April 2014. See p31.
These reports are very difficult to interpret. They often simply describe that an explosion was heard at a certain location, without saying who fired the weapon. This is probably due to a desire to avoid being seen to be pointing fingers. Nonetheless this report (for 30/1/17) clearly records ceasefire violations by both sides in terms of moving around heavy weaponry. In addition, in the detailed annex to the report, a large number of explosions are recorded. In many cases the explosion is listed as “undetermined”. However many are identified as either “impact” or “outgoing”. From this information we can see that both sides are exchanging fire.
4. Sputnik News (Russian State media)