Truth vs Truth – How Russian media handle the doping affair

Professor Richard McLaren, investigator and report author for WADA addresses his findings on Russian state-sponsored doping systems (2017). Photo: /ritzau/AP/Valentin Flauraud

Nordic Journalist Centre’s report “Truth vs Truth”

By Malcolm Dixelius.

Russians are of course genuinely upset over the fact that their flag is not hoisted at the Olympic Games.

NJC REPORT. The decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban Russia from participation in the Olympic Games and Paralympics in 2016 and 2018 is generally described in Russian media as an ”international conspiracy” or a ”trumped-up story to punish Russia”.

Very few Russian media outlets make independent investigations or quote international experts, who support the IOC decision.

Some independent media offer detailed background stories about how and why the IOC has taken this drastic step, but there is no commentary in support of the decision or articles demanding that Russian officials deserve punishment or blame.

In short – when it comes to doping and world sports, Russia is a country solidly in denial.

”Truth vs Truth” is a report commissioned by the Nordic Journalist Centre and financed through Nordic Council of Ministers’ project ”Nordic – Northwest Russian Journalist Cooperation 2016-17” that analyses how Russian language media in Northwest Russia and the Nordic countries reported on the doping affair as it unfolded during the Rio Olympics and Paralympics in 2016.

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The report is compiled by three experienced researchers and covers all Russian language journalistic material published on the Internet (both by traditional media and Internet sites) in this geographic region during the period immediately after the publication of the so-called McLaren-report.

Download “Truth vs Truth” for free (PDF)

“Truth vs Truth” makes a classification of the material into patriotic, neutral and independent.

Patriotic journalistic material is an article or commentary clearly questioning the veracity of the McLaren report and its conclusion that there was a state-controlled doping program during the Sochi Olympics.

Neutral material reports the facts around the report without comment and independent stands for material that adds either commentary or facts that give some credibility to the doping accusations.

The conclusion of the study is that there is an overwhelming majority of media outlets in Russia supporting a patriotic standpoint. This is also the case among Russian language media in the Baltic states, where they play an important role in the formation of opinion among the Russian speaking minorities.

The Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova was booed on the podium after taking the silver medal in the 200m breaststroke. “I thought cold war was long in the past”, she said to theguardian.com. Photo: /ritzau/AP/Nataliya Vasilyeva

One important conclusion of the report is that this tendency towards patriotism is not limited to state owned or state controlled media.

Many Russian citizens are of course genuinely upset over the fact that the country’s flag will not be hoisted at the Olympic Games.

”Truth vs Truth” is a timely report that can serve as an guide to understanding the reactions that are likely to follow in the coming days, weeks and months in Russian media. This applies not just to the Olympic Winter Games, but also to the World Cup in football, which takes place in Russia in the summer of 2018.

We have yet to see which effect the doping affair will have on that prestige event, Russia’s only hope right now of restoring some of its lost national pride on the international scene.

Download “Truth vs Truth” for free (PDF)

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