THIRD PARTY EVENT – The Conflict in the Caucasus: Are the Media entering a New Cold War?

Talk Tuesday 28th October, 2008

From the very beginning of the Conflict in Georgia and South Ossetia in August this year the same events had virtually opposite coverage in the Russian and British media. The Russians accuse the West of waging a propaganda war against Russia, whilst many observers in the West argue that the Russian media has been brainwashing the Russian audience. The language of reporting and commentaries on both sides increasingly resembles that of the 1970s.

Is this ‘perception gap’ a result of the deterioration in British-Russian relations over the last few years following the Litvinenko murder in November 2006, or does the diplomatic standoff have little to do with it? What is really going on in South Ossetia and why do the truths of the sides differ so much? What are the problems facing journalists in order to give unbiased coverage of conflicts like these?

John Kampfner was Editor of the New Statesman from 2005-2008. He has been appointed Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, one of the world’s leading organisations that monitors abuses of freedom of expression. He was a member of the Valdai Discussion Club that visited Rostov, Grozny, Sochi and Moscow for talks with Russia’s prime minister and president, and the leaders of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Chechnya.
Alexander Gurnov hosts the Spotlight programme on Russia Today, the English language Russian satellite TV channel. He was one of the pioneers of independent Russian TV in the early 1990’s and shaped a new, post-Soviet, style of political journalism. Mr Gurnov was bureau chief of Russian Television in 1993.
Alexander Kots is a war correspondent at the Russian national daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. Alexander went to Tshinvali on the day the hostilities escalated and Russian troops entered South Ossetia. He was heavily wounded during the fighting.
Valeriy Fadeev is editor-in-chief of Expert magazine, a leading Russian economic and political weekly review. Mr Fadeev is also a member of the Public Chamber of Russia, a consultative assembly that advises lawmakers on key social issues, similar to The Economic and Social Council of France.
Kim Sengupta is the Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent of The Independent. He has covered stories around the world and one of his last assignments was reporting the conflict in Georgia.
Jonah Hull is a foreign correspondent for Al Jazeera English. He recently finished a three year posting to the Russian capital as Moscow correspondent. Jonah and his crew were the first international television crew to cover the opening moments of the Georgia/Russia conflict as Georgia launched its artillery attack on Tskinvali.
Alexey Chesnakov is a political and media analyst, head of the Centre for Political Analysis think tank. From 2001 until recently he was a senior Kremlin staffer (Deputy Head of the Political Affairs Department in the Presidential Administration).