Monday, 14 May 2018

Where are the Skripals?

Neither Sergei Skripal nor his daughter Yulia have been seen since they were found on a park bench in Salisbury on the fourth of March. Other than one brief telephone call between Yulia and her cousin and the Metropolitan police's press statements on her behalf (which obviously were not authored by her), nothing has been heard from the Skripals. They have not had consular access; they have not been allowed a visit from relatives; they have not spoken to the press. They have disappeared - and they could only have been disappeared by the British state.

Yet no one in the political media elite seems to be in the least concerned. Surely members of parliament and journalists ought to be asking the government some serious questions about the welfare of the Skripals. Instead of such questioning, there is a deafening silence. Indeed, the case of the Skripals has been largely dropped by the political media elite. The accusation that Russia was responsible was made over and over again during March and April without ever presenting a scintilla of evidence. It may be that this lack of evidence is the reason for dropping the story. Instead of talking about the poisonings of the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the focus shifted to Russian disinformation. This neatly deflects attention away from Sergei and his daughter and the lack of evidence, whilst providing yet more Russia is bad talking points.

The Guardian, which has been particularly concerned to push this Russian disinformation narrative, has been notably uninterested in the welfare of the Skripals. Taken at face value, this ought to seem very strange, as the Guardian makes a point of professing its commitment to human rights. Yet, one will search the Guardian's pages in vain looking for any interest in the legal rights of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. The Skripal case is clearly of no interest to the political media elite other than as a tool to demonise Russia.

Today, the Skripal case has resurfaced in the corporate media. However, the news has nothing to do with Sergei and Yulia: the reporting is concerned with the Head of MI5's opinion that Russia's "disinformation" about the case poses a threat to western democracies. This afternoon a BBC anchor discussed this with the BBC's intelligence services correspondent. In this conversation, the correspondent admitted that there was no evidence and that he doubted any would be forthcoming. This was a remarkable admission from the corporate media generally, and particularly from the BBC, which has explicitly stated that its sees itself as in an information war with Russia and has rebuked people for expressing scepticism about the official anti-Russian narratives.

Now that the BBC has finally admitted that there is no evidence of Russia's guilt in the Skripal case, perhaps it could finally engage in some genuine journalism and use one of its many thousands of publicly funded journalists to do some actual journalism and ask the authorities about the whereabouts of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Maybe, but I am not holding my breath.

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