Why Postmedia’s pro-Russian bias is so dangerous

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

In last week’s editorial we pointed out how Canada’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia, is wantonly spreading anti-Ukrainian Russian propaganda without even giving our community a chance to set the record straight on this deliberate and extremely destructive disinformation. This week, we would like to point out why this dissemination of propaganda by Postmedia is so important and dangerous.

To begin with, as we noted in the above paragraph, Postmedia is Canada’s largest newspaper chain. As such, it wields a huge amount of influence. What’s more, as Canada’s largest newspaper chain, it commands considerable credibility with the Canadian public. This then, has far more serious ramifications than something that originated with Russia Today, or some fringe group.

Take the example of the recent articles about the supposedly “Nazi” monument to the veterans of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army in Oakville, ON. After the original defacement was reported to the authorities, Halton Regional Police began to investigate the incident as a hate crime. However, once David Pugliese’s first story about the desecration appeared, smearing Division members as “Nazis”, Halton Regional Police dropped the hate crime designation and changed the investigation to a simple case of vandalism. What’s more, they questioned why such a monument was put up in the first place.

Members of the Ukrainian community have written to Oakville Town Council protesting the desecration of the monument and hoping to change Halton Regional Police’s stand. But this is unlikely to have much effect. Why? Because Postmedia has declared the Division to be a bunch of Nazis and because Postmedia says so, most Canadians accept this without question.

Take another example. At one of the many board meetings I attend (formerly in person, currently online) Pugliese’s story about Canada’s former Ambassador Roman Waschuk participating in a ceremony honoring soldiers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) who were killed by the Nazis, came up. Just before the meeting commenced, board members discussed that particular story, which had been reprinted in the Edmonton Journal that same day. These were knowledgeable, well-informed Ukrainians who, nevertheless, felt that perhaps Waschuk had made a mistake and this was going to affect his career. Why? Because they considered the Edmonton Journal to be a credible source and thus took what was written at face value. After my rebuttal appeared in the Journal, pointing out all the discrepancies and omissions in Pugliese’s report, they changed their minds.

It should be noted, however, that even obtaining approval from the Journal to publish a rebuttal was fraught with difficulty, despite the support of the local Opinion Editor who understood the importance of presenting both sides of the issue. Although permission to publish a rebuttal was ultimately granted, the exercise demonstrated a deep-seated reluctance at the highest levels of the Postmedia heirarchy to publish articles critical of Pugliese. In fact, Postmedia’s flagship newspaper the National Post refused to print a clarification of the event from the main organizer, James Temerty, founder of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE), a privately organized, multinational initiative launched in 2008 as a collaborative project involving Ukrainians of Jewish and Christian heritages and others, in Ukraine, Israel, and the diasporas. Its work engages scholars, civic leaders, artists, governments, and the broader public in an effort to strengthen mutual comprehension and solidarity between Ukrainians and Jews.

A parallel can be drawn between the Russian propaganda Postmedia is disseminating today and the Holodomor denial perpetrated by the New York Times in the 1930s. Despite the courageous reporting of such individuals as Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge, the vast majority of people in the West had no reason to believe or suspect that there was a man-made famine raging in Ukraine. Why? Because the New York Times said there was none. And wasn’t the New York Times considered a credible source? Especially if the writer of those articles denying the existence of the famine was awarded a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on the Soviet Union?

So, just as much of the Western world was led to believe that there was no famine in Ukraine when the Holodomor was at its worst because the New York Times said there was no famine, much of the Canadian public is being deceived into believing that Ukrainian nationalists are fascists who glorify the Nazi past because Postmedia says they are.

So, what can we do? We can support those community media outlets like this newspaper and others, as well as our community organizations led by the UCC who work tirelessly to set the record straight, by challenging head-on Russian propaganda and lies and, in their place, presenting the public with objectively verifiable, historical truth. But we must also recognize that our resources are limited when we come up against a media behemoth like Postmedia.

This notwithstanding, we must do everything within our power to counter the pro-Russian propaganda circulated by Postmedia. Keep up the pressure on Postmedia and on its member newspapers. Call their editors. Cancel your subscriptions. And NEVER, NEVER, NEVER AGAIN solicit money from our community organizations to support Postmedia’s advertising features which demean the Holodomor as some UCC branches and provincial councils have done in the past.

Postmedia represents more than 125 brands across multiple print, online, and mobile platforms. This includes both the original Postmedia and the former Sun chains, with whom they merged. The flag ship is the National Post, and the local newspapers that carry the NP items, including Pugliese’s, are as follows: Belleville Intelligencer, Brantford Expositor, Calgary Herald, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, Edmonton Journal, Kenora Daily Miner and News, Kingston Whig-Standard, London Free Press, Montreal Gazette, North Bay Nugget, Ottawa Citizen, Regina Leader-Post, The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Sault Star, Sudbury Star, Timmins Daily Press, The Vancouver Sun (not related to the tabloid Sun newspapers) and Windsor Star.

Let us not underestimate the uphill struggle that we face when dealing with such a massive media conglomerate. But it is a struggle we must sustain. Because the message we are trying to get across is the truth. And the truth must prevail.