Prominent European media outlets recently circulated false reports of an Adolf Hitler doll being made in Ukraine. Ukrainian journalist Yevgeny Minko said he was disappointed with how the erroneous story was handled.
The false reports caused a stir in Ukraine and beyond
DW-WORLD.DE was among the European media sources to publish the falsified report on its English site in April 2008. It has since been removed from the Web site. The editors apologize to those readers who were offended by the publication of the article.
Yevgeny Minko is editor-in-chief of Telekritika, a monthly publication focusing on media issues in Ukraine. The following interview was conducted by email.
DW-WORLD.DE: Where did the inaccurate story originate and how did it spread?
Yevgeny Minko: The original story about the doll was published in the Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnya (www.dt.ua). The author, Andriy Kapustin, described an incident of seeing a Hitler doll manufactured in Taiwan in one of Kyiv's novelty stores. Of course, he was not very pleased with what he saw. He somewhat satirized the resemblance with the Barbie doll, envisioning a hypothesized Ukrainian family playing with the toy Hitler. Nevertheless, he stressed that such a doll must not be welcome in a country that suffered from a Nazi invasion during World War II.
This was a single incident of witnessing a Hitler doll in Kyiv. No reports of massive sales are available.
After a few days, [German news agency] DPA spread a brief translation of this feature. Their version contained a number of errors. The text suggested that the Hitler doll was going to be manufactured by a local company and would start selling in Ukraine soon, which would definitely cause controversy in the country.
As far as I understand, this erroneous translation was widespread and caused consequential reports in the media outside of Ukraine.
Was the story correctly reported in the media outside of Ukraine?
Hitler invaded Ukraine in 1941, sending thousands to Nazi concentration camps
Absolutely not. First of all, Russia's First television channel made a very biased report, claiming that this Hitler doll is a hit in Kyiv, and queues of people willing to buy it were gathering in stores -- although they failed to show these queues. The report also implied that there were strong Nazi tendencies in the policies of the Ukrainian state.
The BBC subsequently aired this report with an original text by Jane Hadden, although the latter was pretty close to the original.
The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail presented their own versions of the story. The one from Daily Mail came out in classic tabloid style -- shocking and provocative. Their feature roused response from readers who were horrified by the story.
What were the most glaring omissions or mistakes in the article carried by the media outside of Ukraine?
First, the doll is not made by a Ukrainian manufacturer, it was made in Taiwan. Second, there is no Ukrainian manufacturer that plans to sell Hitler dolls across Ukraine. Hence, no one plans to sell this doll with a variety of accessories. Third, Ukrainian supermarkets do not sell this doll on a massive scale. It was witnessed in a single novelty store.
Do you agree with the suspicions of some that there is an anti-Ukrainian agenda to the story?
Well, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, so I would rather not say there was a certain anti-Ukrainian agenda on the part of the media that spread the story. Except perhaps for Russia's First Channel, which is known for its anti-Ukrainian attitude and propaganda-like methods. The other cases seem to be the result of negligent, careless reporting. Sadly, it was the most famous European media outlets that failed to stand up to professional standards.
Do you think that the media outlets that carried the story considered a possible anti-Ukrainian agenda?
The European media was very inaccurate in their reports. For instance, very few of the reporters mentioned the original source of the story -- Dzerkalo Tyzhnya newspaper. The BBC did not make it clear that the shown footage was basically a b-roll made by [Russia's] First channel. Daily Mail and Deutsche Welle failed to mention any original source for their reports.
Did the media that brought the inaccurate story respond to inquires in an appropriate manner?
Not really. We still do not have any responses from DPA. BBC, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail removed the Hitler doll reports from their Web sites, but did not explain the situation to their audiences.