The International Olympic Committee, or IOC, has banned many Russian athletes from the upcoming winter Olympics, and Russia is not happy about it.
This is a controversial issue, and it’s also interesting the way in which Russia Today (RT) discusses the topic. A recent article discusses the IOC decision to allow 169 Russian athletes to participate, but under a neutral flag.
RT portrays the issue as a clear Russia vs the IOC, with Russia having been unjustly banned and the victim of an unreasonable decision. This is the core of the problem, according to RT, and RT’s coverage exemplifies a scenario where the journalistic values of fairness and impartiality are not being met.
While it is not always necessary to be completely objective, journalists must offers a balanced story that presents all the information and the context surrounding it. In this case, RT fails to do just that, thus failing as a reliable source of news on the issue.
First, there is a failure to present both sides of the story. When RT describes the situation, it shows a clear bias in favor of Russia and its athletes. There are no arguments supporting the ban, but rather all arguments questioning such a ban.
RT presented a lot of information about how innocent athletes were being affected by this, and the unfairness of it. However, there was a complete absence of arguments commenting on Russia’s anti-doping organizations, and any questioning of their integrity (as so many other media sources have done).
Secondly, I think the words used to describe the situation demonstrate RT’s bias. Phrases such as “clean wash and star athletes” and “forget about your dream, end of story”. These are clearly intended to have the reader see the Russians as victims of an unjust decision.
Moreover, RT emphasizes the lack of information presented to Russia by the IOC, and how this necessarily leads to the conclusion of unjust decisions that are not supported by facts. Is the IOC being unfair? That’s a question that the RT leaves unanswered.
The argument can be made that in the absence of more information about why some athletes were banned, a lay reader can feel the one sidedness of the argument. However, I do not think that is enough. If there is insufficient information available to present both sides properly, it must at the very least be said that there are two sides, that nothing is black and white, and perhaps point to where the information gaps are.
This leads me to feel that RT intends to direct its audience toward seeing Russia as a victim of an unjust decision, which has caused many innocent athletes to suffer. While Russia Today offers much as a news outlet, this way of handling Russia-related issues fails to comply with journalistic values. The result is that it makes me question the reliability of RT news.
Alejandro Cerecedo (Spain)