Politics

CBS News retracts ‘Arming Ukraine’ documentary featuring author of discredited Amnesty report

Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International interviewed on CBS News documentary Arming Ukraine.

Among those interviewed was Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis adviser for Amnesty International. She was likely interviewed weeks ago.

It just so happens that Rovera was the principal researcher and author of the controversial Amnesty International report released last week, which claimed that the Ukrainian military was setting up bases in residential areas, schools, and hospitals.

Daily Kos’ Hunter wrote in detail about the Amnesty International report on Sunday, and referred to Amnesty International’s “non-apology apology.”

In the CBS documentary, Rovera, without specifically mentioning any country, claimed that some countries lacked any “robust oversight mechanism” to determine where the weapons they were providing Ukraine were going.

She expressed concern that weapons could end up in the wrong hands. She gave the example of what happened in Iraq when ISIS fighters captured the city of Mosul in June 2014. The fleeing Iraqi troops left behind lots of military equipment provided by the U.S. to the Iraqi army. It was a completely different situation.  

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called on CBS News to conduct an internal investigation into the documentary.

“You have misled a huge audience by sharing unsubstantiated claims and damaging trust in supplies of vital military aid to a nation resisting aggression and genocide. There should be an internal investigation into who enabled this and why,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

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Kuleba said the steps taken so far by CBS News to clean up the misinformation in the documentary are not enough.

Later, in a Facebook post, Kuleba noted that there was a “synchronicity” with the Amnesty International report and CBS documentary coming out at a time when Russia has been trying to stop the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine.

“I don’t know whether the manipulative Amnesty report and the lying CBS film, which came out almost simultaneously, have anything to do with the Russian government, Kuleba said. “But I know for sure that both organisations, and the authors of these unsubstantiated ‘masterpieces’, have inflicted an unfair and unprovoked information attack on Ukraine in perfect synch with Russian propaganda.”

He added:

“But there is also good news. All these lies are not achieving their objectives for the moment. No partner or organisation in communication with Ukraine has voiced objections similar to the manipulations of Amnesty or CBS. And these lies have in no way affected the supply of weapons or undermined the high level of trust between Ukraine and its partners.

“Our partners know perfectly well where and how much has been transferred and how it is being used. Fortunately, they don’t get their information from Amnesty and CBS.”

The documentary itself can no longer be found on the CBS News website.

CBS News on Monday partially retracted the documentary. It removed a video promoting the documentary that included a months-old quote from the head of pro-Ukraine nonprofit Blue/Yellow, Jonas Ohman, that claimed most aid was not making it to Ukraine’s front lines.

If I were editing this documentary, I would never have allowed such a statement to be used as a generalization without qualifying the remarks. Ohman’s nonprofit collects and distributes non-lethal aid such as night vision goggles, body armor, helmets, and commercial drones through unofficial networks developed by his organization.

His quote was based on his own experience at the time: His organization was dealing with damaged roads, collapsed bridges, Russian drones and artillery strikes, and other obstacles. Most importantly, Ohman wasn’t in a position to know about official channels used to deliver military aid to Ukrainian troops at the front lines, and we have seen plenty of evidence that HIMARS and other long-range artillery are being utilized quite effectively.

CBS also updated an article accompanying the documentary, noting that “Ohman says that after filming with CBS, the delivery has improved significantly. The U.S. had sent an official, Brigadier General Garrick M. Harmon, to Kyiv specifically to monitor the use of military aid.”

CBS News also said it was re-editing Arming Ukraine “to reflect changes after the filming of the documentary.” 

“We are updating our documentary to reflect this new information and air at a later date,” the network added.

Ohman’s organization put out a tweet on Monday in which it noted that the CBS News report was filmed eight weeks into the war. That would be sometime in late April.

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The statement notes that others interviewed in the CBS documentary had no connection with Blue/Yellow, and that the documentary’s depiction of the situation regarding aid to the Ukrainian military was ”much too negative” and “somewhat out of context.”

It stated that the observation that 30% of the aid reached the front lines was based on an assessment of the efficiency of the aid effort at the time, but “[I]n no way is it suggested that the support is being ‘sold on the black market’ or ‘stolen.'”

The statement continued:

At this point, almost six months into the war, the situation with the support has improved significantly.

For this information to be misused by certain groups and persons in an anti-Ukraine context while a genocidal war is being perpetrated on Ukraine by Russia in a terrorist state fashion, is malevolent and puts blood on the hands of all those doing this.

And guess who decided to misuse the CBS documentary in a malevolent anti-Ukraine context, and put that blood on their hands? Russian state media, of course … and members of the pro-Russia Freedom Caucus.

Russian news agency TASS eagerly quoted Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert as saying the aid being sent by the United States to Ukraine is “a scam.”

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And where Boebert goes, so goes Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. TASS was also quick to report that Greene also shared the CBS News article, adding: “This one of the reasons I voted NO. It was never about the Ukrainian people.” 

CBS News may have pulled down the documentary and deleted its tweet, but on the internet, unfortunately, such things live forever. Just a quick search of Twitter on Tuesday shows the outdated facts being recirculated, and conspiracy theories emerging about the network’s choice to remove the documentary, as well as links to unlicensed uploads—at least five as of this writing—of the flawed film the network itself has pulled from distribution.




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