The Non-Independence of Western-Funded “Independent Media” in Ukraine with Alan MacLeod

In this edition of The Watchdog Podcast, Lowkey talks to Alan MacLeod about Ukraine, how the media is covering the conflict, and the promotion of supposedly “independent” Ukrainian media outlets that are quietly being funded by Western governments.

Chief among these is The Kyiv Independent, a newspaper that was barely three months old at the time of the Russian invasion but has shot to prominence in the West, being relentlessly promoted on television and radio and in print. As a result, it has managed to garner over two million followers on Twitter and raise millions of dollars in crowdfunding.

However, far less known is that The Kyiv Independent was born thanks to a grant of over CA$200,000 from the Canadian government, which made the donation through the European Endowment for Democracy. Furthermore, virtually all of The Kyiv Independent’s staff came from The Kyiv Post, an outlet that has long been financially supported by NATO, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and Western governments, meaning that for years they were directly in the pay of the national security state. Perhaps, then, The Kyiv Independent is not quite as independent as it makes itself out to be.

Furthermore, as MacLeod explained, many Kyiv Independent journalists come from suspect backgrounds, including individuals who previously worked for NATO think tank The Atlantic Council, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, or for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer and Podcast Producer at MintPress News. Before joining MintPress in 2019, Alan was an academic whose work focused on propaganda, media and power. He has published a number of peer-reviewed academic papers on the subject, as well as two books: “Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting” and “Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.” His article “Kyiv Independent Deep Dive: The West’s In-Kind Answer to Putin’s Propaganda” can be read here.

From the coverage of Ukraine, the pair pivoted to talking about wars the media is ignoring. Chief among them is the seven-year conflict in Yemen, where Western nations continue to supply the Saudi-led Coalition with arms and assistance. By the end of 2021, an estimated 377,000 people had been killed.

Despite this, media coverage of Yemen has been virtually non-existent, especially in comparison to Ukraine. A study MacLeod published last month found that in one week, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC collectively published nearly 1300 articles on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but only two on Israel’s attack on Syria, one on the U.S. bombing campaign in Somalia, and none at all on the Saudi attack on Yemen.

This, for MacLeod, was a function of who the victims and the perpetrators in these cases were. Media is happy to focus on the crimes of official enemies. But when the perpetrator is the U.S. or its close allies, their media’s principled stand against violence dissipates and interest in covering the story drops to nearly zero.

Join us for a free-flowing and extremely informative discussion on war, propaganda, and how the media works.

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.

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