Guardian Censorship: Some Comments Are Freer Than Others

In a recent editorial, The Guardian complained about the expulsion of their Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding. All the usual Russia tropes were brought up in explanation, including its “shrinking space for a free press.”

But Harding’s “crowning offense”, at least according to the Guardian’s “guess”, was “his association with this paper’s story on what the WikiLeaks material revealed about the views of foreign diplomats and others on the nature of the Russian system as it has evolved, or rather, devolved, under Vladimir Putin.”

By this time, most of my “guesses” were revolving around the question of WTF are the Guardian Editors smoking. Not very diplomatic, true, so I limited myself to just pointing out that their arguments are specious, and why (unfortunately failed to screenshot my response). But the gist of it went something along these lines…

1. As shown by a simple Googling, Luke Harding is a professional plagiarist, ripping off from the eXile. It’s well documented and we have to wonder what he’s doing as a journalist in the first place. And that’s not going into the observation that most of Harding’s “real” journalism consists of dogged Russia-bashing – and that countries like the US also bans journalists it dislikes from entering. No outcry from the Guardian there!

2. The Guardian’s argument that Russia banned Luke Harding for his Wikileaks stories is simply absurd on too many levels. For a start, there are literally thousands of articles – both from Western journalists in Russia and Russian journalists writing for Russian newspapers – covering the cables in which US diplomats blow off about Russia being a “mafia state.” All you need to confirm this is a 30-second search of Russian Google News, but I guess that is too much real work for an accomplished specialist in plagiarism and sensationalism.

3. Frankly, boohoo! And good riddance.

As it turned out, good riddance to me too. The Guardian is more than happy to dish it out, but can’t take the heat itself. Of the first 50 comments on that Editorial – located in the section Comment Is Free, of all places – some 11 have been censored because they don’t “abide by [The Guardian’s] community standards.”

That’s more than 20% censorship, including all of the truly critical views. Comment is free indeed. But I “guess” that some comments are freer than others.

UPDATE #1

To John Haskell’s question, “Are we then to conclude that Harding was denied entry to Russia because he ripped off the Exile?”

AK – If I had to “guess” – just as the Guardian does – then I’d say someone took a look at Harding’s articles for his past years in Russia, noticed they were full of negative spin, fact distortion and outright propaganda (e.g. this, making out the South Ossetia War as a “cruel” Russian invasion of Georgia), and hence the ban.

Harding is perhaps unfortunate that it befell him (after all Ed Lucas can still travel there freely), but “guessing” that it was due to his Wikileaks coverage – if it was hundreds of other Western and Russian journalists would also be expelled or in jail – is mendacious.

UPDATE #2

Response to Sean Russia Blog’s “The Hard Lessons of the Harding Affair.”

Some paranoias die hard.  Some day, though I can’t imagine that it will be anytime soon, the Russian government will have enough self-confidence in themselves and their system to see that the best way to deal with irritants is to ignore them, or better yet defuse them through positive recognition. This is after all what mature liberal democracies do, and as Gramsci taught, consent is always more effective than force.

AK – If you consider the US a “mature liberal democracy”, then Russia is already playing to form. I don’t follow these news closely, but just in 2004, according to the CPJ, “nine foreign journalists were detained and denied entry because they did not have visas.” A Google search reveals that in 2010 a Colombian and a Palestinian journalist were denied entry, whose coverage went against American interests.

Think the Guardian’s Britain is any better? Off the top of my head, they denied entry to right-wing radio personality Michael Savage. While I despise his views, and agree with the Foreign Office opinion that some of it is “hate speech”, why are the Russians not allowed to consider Luke Harding’s anti-Russian diatribes to be also hate speech?

PS. Despite the whataboutism here – justified, I think, because of the double standards the same countries that criticize Russia display – I actually agree with you that barring Luke Harding is more trouble than its worth. That said, now that the milk has been spilled, Russia might as well refrain from backpedaling.

UPDATE #3

So it appears Russia has allowed Luke Harding to come back. Meanwhile, I remain censored by the Guardian.

Guardian = less respect for free speech than the Kremlin.

EDIT: This post has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (Цензура в The Guardian: некоторые комментарии свободнее других). Thanks guys – you rock!

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