Graham Phillips is a British journalist who has free-lanced for both Russian and Western channels but became a “fully crowdfunded journalist” in 2016. He became known for his reporting of events in Ukraine in 2014. Now, it appears, corporate media is returning to events of 2014, and twisting them, in an attempt to discredit him.
On 9 May 2014, during Victory Day celebrations in Mariupol, Ukraine, dozens of armed militants barricaded themselves inside a police station and exchanged fire with government forces. During the fighting, the building burned down. Pools of blood and singed bodies appeared in the street.
But how many people were killed? Local news reported two deaths. Ukraine’s interior minister said 21 people died in the fighting. Human Rights Watch could only confirm seven deaths after visiting all four hospitals where the wounded were taken.
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None of that seemed right to Phillips so he set out to investigate in the way that made him popular in east Ukraine’s crisis: by interviewing people on the street.
Some people told him that more than 100 people had died in the fighting.
On 20 May 2014, RT, which employed Phillips as a freelancer three days a week, said that Ukraine’s national guard detained Phillips at a checkpoint outside Mariupol on suspicion of being a spy. According to the ministry’s press service, Phillips was detained for “filming facilities which are forbidden from being filmed.”
Read more: How A British Blogger Became An Unlikely Star Of The Ukraine Conflict — And Russia Today, BuzzFeed, 20 May 2014 and British journalist held in Ukraine is freed and says ‘I’m fine and unharmed’
Phillips was deported to Poland and banned from Ukraine for three years in 2014. He was accused of being a “Kremlin propagandist” and supposedly “supporting terrorism” but has always denied this and maintains his reporting is independent, The Courier wrote on hearing of his return to Ukraine during the current conflict. An entirely different tone of reporting compared to those when he was detained in Ukraine six years before.
In March 2022, Phillips returned to Ukraine for three weeks and posted his first video report on 14 March. The next day Tanya Kozyreva – an “investigative journalist” who, judging by her Twitter posts, also appears to be an activist for the Ukrainian cause – tweeted the news of Phillips’ return to Ukraine and asked YouTube to consider banning what she described as his “disinformation” channel.
The next day, Kozyreva tweeted at Melinda Simmons, British Ambassador to Ukraine, and Boris Johnson “consider sanctions against British citizen Graham Phillips as a part of Russia-linked disinformation network.”
On 5 April, having now left Ukraine, Phillips posted a video on YouTube giving his opinion, and clearly stated it as such, on the likelihood of Russian soldiers committing atrocities in Bucha.
On 11 April Phillips posted on his Telegram channel an image of an email he had received from Tom Ball, a journalist at The Times:
I’m a journalist from The Times. We are writing a story about your return to Ukraine and the films that you have been making to promote pro-Kremlin narratives around the war. We will note in our article that one of your recent films seeks to promote the claim that the Bucha massacre was a staged provocation by the Ukrainian authorities. If you would like to respond to this please let me know. Could you please also tell me if your work is being funded or accredited by the Russian state?
Our deadline is 5 pm.
Ball’s email was received at 12:10 pm. Phillips responded:
That is a rather aggressive and provocative tone, Tom. My video reportage is on the scene, asking questions that the mass media don’t want to ask. Your assertion on my video report on Bucha is also entirely incorrect, my video report asked viewers to look at evidence from all sides before making their own conclusion. Are you against that? Surely all sides must be considered, right?
In any case it’s clear that you are going to write a hit piece against myself and my work, based on false assumptions and incorrect assertions. I believe in playing fair, and freedom of speech, however I am sure you are aware of the laws regarding slander, in the United Kingdom. If not, your lawyers will be.
All my reportage is done in good faith with clear conscience and adheres to the applicable YouTube guidance.
The Russian state has zero to do with my work, no involvement, funding whatsoever. I am, as yourself, a British journalist, however on the basis of your email, I am clearly much more polite.
I am a freelance journalist, work supported by crowdfunding from individuals across the world who want to see the truth. And reporting the truth is my absolute dedication in life, nothing I do is ever motivated by finance, it is all about the truth. Can you say the same, Tom?
The next day The Times published the article titled ‘Graham Phillips: Briton banned from Ukraine is back doing Kremlin’s bidding’ at 12:01 am.
“A former British civil servant who was expelled from Ukraine on suspicion of being a Russian spy has returned to the country to promote pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories, including the claim that the Bucha massacre was staged,” The Times article began.
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