“What if you told us the truth about the war in Ukraine”: what influence does NATO have on journalists?

This June 28, 29 and 30 will be the 32nd summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO.

A meeting that remains exceptional because these summits, rather than being scheduled at regular intervals as for other international organizations, are often held at key moments in the evolution of the Alliance. For this reason, the RTBF, like a large number of media, will cover the event.

Especially since this summit is only the second to be held in the particular context of the war in Ukraine. This will take up most of the discussions there because, as you no doubt know, NATO, although not officially a party to the conflict, strongly supports the armed forces of kyiv and unreservedly condemns the Russian intervention. Let us add that Belgium is a member of the organization and as such covering this summit is, in part, commenting on the actions of our own leaders (Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will obviously be present).

This is what, for many of you, raises many questions: is it possible for journalists from a NATO member country to report objectively on the actions of the Alliance? And by extension, the situation in Ukraine? Are we biased in our coverage of the conflict? Would it be different if our country were not part of NATO?

►►► This article is not an info article like the others: all about the Inside approach of the editorial staff here.

As long as the war in Ukraine lasts, it might not be uninteresting to address the issue of information in wartime“, Leo suggests to us by email.”Belgium, as a member of NATO, is ‘mobilizedeven if it is not a formal military mobilization. […] If a journalist wanted to defend Putin’s point of view against NATO, would he be free to do so?“, he wonders. More bitter, Danielle also challenged us: “And if for once you tell us the truth about the war in Ukraine without automatically taking the side of Zelensky and that of the Americans and NATO ?”.”Stop advocating war even if it is our governors who want it. You have a duty to inform us fairly, without bias“, she finishes.

Small precision: we are not going to do here the detailed examination of the coverage of the conflict in Ukraine by the Info team of the RTBF. This work has also been partly done by “Inside” in the first weeks of the conflict. In reality, we wondered in 2018 about the complexity of informing about Russia. Here, On the occasion of the NATO Summit in Madrid and following your numerous questions, we wanted this time to focus on the possible influence that NATO could have on the work of journalists in general. Here are some elements of analysis.

First, it may be useful to recall some basic principles of journalism: independence from the authorities, cross-checking of sources, confrontation of points of view, field reporting, critical thinking and freedom of expression in the analysis of facts. “We apply these principles to both our domestic policy and our foreign policy”emphasizes our colleague from the International Department, Daniel Fontaine, who himself went to the field in Ukraine recently. “We must remember that these basic principles do not exist in Russia, where there is no real counter-power. While assuming that absolute objectivity does not exist and that we have a point of view, which is that of a French-speaking Belgian public media.”

With us, no censorship on the words to be used, as in Russia, where the term “war” is banned at the risk of prosecution. It’s an example.

We wish to give thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content

“What if you told us the truth about the war in Ukraine”: what influence does NATO have on journalists?

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