Thursday, February 20, 2014

Whilst news of the brutal treatment of feminist punk group Pussy Riot was spreading quickly on Twitter yesterday afternoon, the BBC's News channel remained strangely muted on the story. There was, however, a short report on BBC One's flagship News at Six.

George Alagiah: Members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot have been attacked by Cossack patrolmen at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The group said they were attacked with pepper spray and beaten as they tried to perform a song. Yesterday two of the group were released after being held on suspicion of theft. They have previously served prison sentences for an anti-government protest in a church in Moscow.

The report lasted 22 seconds in total, of which the last 15 seconds included footage of the incident.

Of particular interest in the way this story was handled on the News at Six is that the most brutal behaviour on the part of the authorities, including the use of horsewhips against the women, were not shown at all. Instead the BBC seemed intent on drawing attention to Pussy Riot's alleged crimes.

The BBC said nothing about this story on its main News at Ten programme last night. Most other UK broadcasters, including Sky News, ITV and Channel 4 reported the story fairly. The video on Sky News' website begins with the warning: Video contains violent images. And Jon Snow warned Channel 4 News viewers about the graphic violence.

So far none of the athletes at the Sochi Games has made a stand against the homophobia and lack of gay rights in Russia. Newsround, too, has yet to mention the issue.

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