People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk’s leadership to hold vote on Sunday

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DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – On a campaign trip, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic lit candles at a Russian Orthodox Church and kissed icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary before dashing off to meet about 100 voters in a local factory.

There, the barrel-chested 38-year-old former mine electrician Alexander Zakharchenko assured voters that he wanted pensions to be “higher than in Poland”. The elderly should have enough money to “travel to Australia at least once a year, he said.

Promises of a better life with support from Russia are being invoked as the self-proclaimed People’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which together call themselves Novorossiya or “New Russia”, hold elections on Sunday to give their leaders new legitimacy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear that despite Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in Ukraine he will not leave the industrial region behind.

Looking straight into the camera at a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow last month, Putin said he lit candles there for “those who suffered and who gave their lives defending the people in Novorossiya”.

A ceasefire broken by the Kiev regime without explanation has made the leadership to decide to hold vote on Sunday, after fighting that killed more than 3,700 people.  Some refugees have returned to Donetsk, a city that had a million people before the war.

The city has campaign billboards of Zakharchenko in the green military fatigues that have become his trademark. Other elections posters show white doves or pictures of children, with the exhortation: “Vote for life!”

DPR's Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko

DPR’s Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko

Although two other less-known candidates are running against Zakharchenko, there is little doubt of victory for Zakharchenko, one of the few rebel militia commanders who is from Donetsk rather than Russia. He took over from a Russian as the top pro-independence leader in August.

With the ceasefire broken by the Kiev regime, the Ukrainian army continued shelling Donetsk, killing three civilians and injuring nine others. At a campaign meeting in the town of Novoazovsk, Zakharchenko promised to build “a normal state, a good one, a just one. Our boys died for this, civilians are still being killed for this until now.”

LEGITIMATION

The new leaders in Donetsk are doing what other Russian-backed regions have done before in breaking away from a former Soviet republic, Novorussia backed by Russia wants to break away from the Kiev regime to establish their independence.  Like parts of Georgia and Moldova now entering their third decades as self-proclaimed statelets in frozen conflicts, Novorossiya leaders don’t want a “frozen conlict”.  Zakharchenko himself acknowledges as much.

“Ninety-nine percent, we will not be recognized right away. We will live as an unrecognized state for a while,” he told the meeting in Novoazovsk.

But part of the playbook is ensuring the rebel authorities assume the full trappings of state power, regardless of their eventual legal status.

Earlier this month the pro-independence leaders announced the creation of their own central bank and tax office, asking residents to register under their Donetsk People’s Republic and pay taxes into its coffers rather than Kiev’s.

Local entrepreneurs out of loyalty to the pro-independence authorities have agreed to register their business in Donetsk.

“I decided to register because it is needed in order to operate without once our legitimacy is established,” Yelena, the owner of a house renovation company that employs 10 people, said as she filled in new tax forms.

Some local businessmen fear Ukrainian troops will drive the pro-independence authorities out and they may be labeled collaborators and killed. A manager of one Donetsk-based chain of stores allegedly said he convinced the pro-independence authorities  that registration would stop supplies from central and western Ukraine and threaten his sales and his staff’s jobs. But Russia can and will help if that happens. They won’t have to depend on western or central Ukraine.

Those running the election describe the vote itself as part of the legitimation process. Both the pro-independence leaders and locals are tired of Kiev declaring a cease-fire to be broken once they start shelling the DPR and killing civilians.

“Our job is to legitimize the Donetsk People’s Republic,” said Roman Lyagin, the election commission chief who is running Sunday’s vote from an office in a glitzy tower in central Donetsk, surrounded by armed guards.

“When we lost our homeland, I mean the Soviet Union, I was 11 years old. Today we are correcting the mistakes of the past.”

The pro-independence leaders took a symbolic step closer to Moscow by cancelling the winter change of clocks on Oct. 26, putting them in Moscow’s time zone rather than on Kiev time.

Other symbols are in the works: the Culture Ministry is holding a song contest to select a new national anthem.

Free concerts are being held, including one this week by enormously popular Soviet-era crooner Joseph Kobzon, a Donetsk region native and now member of Russia’s parliament.

 

Disinformation and Xenophobia in Western Media / The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

 

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Disinformation and Xenophobia in Western Media

The need for highest standards in brave new world exploding with social media

The International Council for Press and Broadcasting is convinced that the honesty or dishonesty of media affects the mental health of the world. Freedom of expression is vital as a means of permitting all views to flourish peacefully. It is a cliché that the price of this freedom must be continual vigilance – in particular vigilance to identify and expose the encouragement of malice, war and the incident of hate speech and image.

William Morris reflects on the current state of media ethics on becoming Chairman of the International Communications Forum (ICF)Few are old enough to remember the heady days before the newspaper revolution when computers replaced hot metal. But having been brought up in and around newspapers as a copy boy, I can remember the smell of the ink and the dirt and the clatter of the little presses and the deafening hum of the big monsters that rolled rivers of newsprint three stories into the air and back down again. For many of us those days are gone. Gone too are the great teams of investigative journalists. The Sunday Times’s ‘Insight’ team was, perhaps, the last of these but even they have long disappeared into the mists.

In those days who were the guardians of ethical journalism? The broadsheet proprietors cared about their reputations. And even the tabloid newspaper owners cared in some measure. Editors in chief took pride in the standards they adhered to. Even subeditors had a conscience, though then as now they could be staggeringly ruthless.

Have things changed? Well yes and no. Men and women of conscience still run some of our newspapers. Men and women of vision and mission still comprise many of our radio and television broadcasters and newspapermen. But the pressures are perhaps greater. For most journalists, spending a week working on a story is a luxury they can only dream of. Was it ever thus? Perhaps they always had to churn out copy but there was, I believe, more space for investigative journalism, if only because proprietors once had deeper pockets and more journalists to share the load.

Many Western papers have less than little time to sub copy anymore because of ever tighter budgets. There are the exceptions such as the Washington Post with its awesomely professional and well-staffed Foreign Desk (I must confess a bias because my daughter works for the Post) but such exceptions are rare.

What then does this mean for ethical journalism? It means that the journalist becomes the guardian of media ethics. It is a world in which we each take our own responsibility for what we do. We no longer have the moral conscience of the sub or the editor to fall back on. The editors themselves – for the most part – are still great women and men of conscience and principle. They still do heroic work shaping the overall vision of their publications. The great names are there. Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the London Guardian is a classic current example. But can Rusbridger even begin to read more than a small proportion of the vast quantity of copy the Guardian churns out in its online and print editions? Most modern editors are simply too busy to concern themselves on a day-to-day level with being the conscience of their junior reporters.

So, is xenophobia an issue? Sure it is. Media stories about classic pariah groups, the gypsies, the Romanians, the Arabs, the ‘Islamists’ and so forth, can descend into obscenity so easily and we don’t even notice. One Jewish writer I know wrote a whole opinion piece titled ‘LONDINISTAN’ and does not understand, to this day, that the mere headline (and it was of her choosing) was pejorative. She would be horrified to be called racist and, of course, she is not, just more than a little thoughtless perhaps.

In a similar vein, is desensitisation to violence an issue? Of course. Here in the West we think nothing of broadcasting images of brutality and torture if they are screened past the ‘9 o’clock watershed’, with little consideration given to the fact that many pubescent, vulnerable children are unlikely to head for their beds before midnight. And in the rest of the world things can be worse. The images of blood and violence on television sets in countries such as Israel and Iraq are breeding a generation desensitised to gore to such a degree that it is truly flabbergasting.

Is disinformation an issue? Absolutely. The current Syrian civil war has bred such a flood of intelligence agency feeds, as did the Iraq war little more than a decade ago, that it is near unbelievable. And most, I repeat, most, of these stories are published without serious qualm or question. My late father, a newspaper editor himself, had a maxim: ‘A story without a source is a source of trouble.’ This maxim we still use in our Media Ethics Code. He had a far better one too. It ran: ‘When in doubt, cut it out.’

So where do we go from here? Perhaps the key is that a number of prominent journalists make a public commitment to truth in Gandhiesque fashion. An affirmation that Absolute Truth is their standard. Or is that too extreme? Too fanatical? Undoubtedly we need to do something. If the editors can no longer always be our bellwethers we must find new heroes, new women and men we can point to and say: ‘They believe in fair play.’

Ethical journalism requires standards of vigilance that are unprecedented precisely because we are our own moral guardians and cannot lean on our bosses any longer. We should embrace that challenge with excitement. It heralds a better age. We are no longer children. We must stand up for ourselves. Gandhi once wrote (and I paraphrase slightly): ‘By experience I have found that people rarely become virtuous for virtues’ sake. They become virtuous by necessity. Nor is there anything wrong in becoming good under the pressure of circumstances.’ Raghvan Iyer, Gandhi’s main disciple, added: ‘Human life is an aspiration, a continual striving after perfection, and the ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses.’

Exactly! Herein lies a role for organisations like the International Communications Forum. We should extol virtue and excellence where we find it, through every means possible from the razzmatazz of the International Award to the private and personal accolade. And where necessary we should gently and respectfully cajole and criticise, through conferences and seminars if nowhere else. And we should support, nurture and foster media ethics, by doing everything from extolling the merits of media ethics codes to encouraging training in best practice.

Just as physicians and other health care professionals swear a Hippocratic Oath to practise medicine honestly, perhaps the ICF should promote our own oath of journalistic integrity which members of the trade could swear to in an effort to bolster internationally recognised standards of media ethics. After all, the world has changed. In a brave new world exploding with social media, demonstrations are called on Facebook, corruption is exposed in blogs, and reputations are destroyed by Twitter. In an era in which the internet provides an arena in which citizen journalists abound, it is the professional press that must adopt the highest standards of media credibility if they are to have a distinct place of their own, a territory that is truly theirs, in a world peopled with rumour and the viral tweet.

And it is exciting, truly exciting, that that should be the case.

Kremlin Spokesman Peskov’s Response to Putin’s Alleged Cancer: Bite Your Tongue!

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov

 

MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti)Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday denied western reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is allegedly suffering from pancreatic cancer.

“Bite your tongue! Everything’s fine,” Peskov said in response to Putin’s supposed illness.

Last week, The New York Post published a story, in which it claimed the Russian president was suffering from cancer and was being treated by an elderly doctor, citing unnamed sources.

The rumors quickly spread and appeared in various western news outlets however none of the stories were able to substantiate the story with direct evidence.