Radio New Zealand removes references to 2014


In an extraordinary act of retroactive censorship, the state-owned broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ) announced today that it has “corrected” 16 of its online articles about the war in Ukraine published over the past year. 

Radio New Zealand building in Wellington. [Photo: WSWS]

Specifically, over the past three days RNZ has removed references to Ukraine’s 2014 coup—including the word “coup” and the fact that it was led by fascistic forces and backed by the US and NATO imperialist powers. References to the participation of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine’s military have also been deleted.

Late last week, RNZ placed one staff member on leave pending an employment investigation and began “correcting” articles, originally published by Reuters and in one instance the BBC, which the employee had edited for the RNZ website. 

This morning, RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson delivered a grovelling on-air apology for letting the changes go unnoticed for so long. “It’s so disappointing that this pro-Kremlin garbage has ended up in our stories. It’s inexcusable,” he said. Thompson has announced an external review of RNZ’s processes for the editing of online stories, and RNZ is reviewing hundreds of its articles.

In fact, the aim of RNZ’s latest “corrections” is to falsify the history of the war, in line with Washington’s propaganda that Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine was an “unprovoked” attack on a “democratic” country. 

NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently admitted that the events of 2014 marked the real start of the war in Ukraine. The overthrow of the elected government of Russia-aligned Viktor Yanukovych was followed by the installation of a regime that included the fascist Svoboda Party and was violently anti-Russian. The coup sparked a civil war with the breakaway eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

Since 2014 the NATO powers and their allies have been pouring weapons into Ukraine and increasing their military spending dramatically in preparation for what is now a US-NATO proxy war with Russia, in which more than 200,000 Ukrainians and Russians have been killed and millions displaced. Since 2022, New Zealand has also provided millions of dollars for Kiev to buy weapons and the NZ military has been involved in training Ukrainian conscripts in Britain.

RNZ reporter Hayden Donnell falsely claimed that the suspended staff member had “edited [articles] to align with the Russian version of events.” In fact, it is entirely consistent to oppose Putin’s invasion—which was reactionary and has produced a disaster—while recognising that Moscow was provoked by the 2014 coup and Kiev’s alignment with NATO. 

Donnell and others pointed to a story published on Thursday by Reuters’ Guy Faulconbridge, which stated in its original version:

“The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, with Russian-backed separatist forces fighting Ukraine’s armed forces.”

In the version that appeared on RNZ’s website, Reuters’ glorification of the coup as a “revolution” was removed and the passage changed to the following: 

“The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian elected government was toppled during Ukraine’s violent Maidan colour revolution. Russia annexed Crimea after a referendum, as the new pro-Western government suppressed ethnic Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine, sending in its armed forces to the Donbas.” 

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