Dec. 24—News on the biggest lie of the year coincided with a new report that the number of journalists murdered around the world has increased by a third.
The fact-checking organization Politifact determined the biggest lie of the year was Vladimir Putin’s statement that Russian invaded Ukraine because ethnic Russians were experiencing genocide at the hands of the Ukrainians. Putin deployed his various propaganda agencies to spread the lie until a good number of Russians believed it.
Politifact chose it as the biggest lie — beating contenders coming from ex-President Donald Trump and his illegal taking of top secret government documents — because the Putin lie had far-reaching deadly consequences for a free country.
Some 100,000 soldiers have been killed on each side in the Russian attack. Some 47,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed. Another 15 million people have fled Ukraine. Trade has been disrupted, causing hunger in Africa and exorbitant fuel prices around the world.
The war in Ukraine, chaos in Haiti and violent drug related wars in Mexico have contributed to the deaths of 67 journalists and media members around the world this year, up from a total of 47 last year, according to a report by the International Federation of Journalists. Some 375 journalists are currently imprisoned for their work in China, Turkey, Hong Kong and Myanmar, up from 365 last year.
Twelve journalists have been killed covering the war in Ukraine. Most were Ukrainian but American documentary film maker Brent Renaud was also killed. The IFJ has called on countries to strengthen laws to protect journalists from being killed or jailed, but as long as dictators rule, the tide will be difficult to turn back.
Politifact Deputy Editor Rebecca Catalanello and Senior Correspondent Louis Jacobson say Putin’s lie strategy was sophisticated and effective.
“Putin joined history’s most brutal authoritarians, deploying a well-worn and highly sophisticated propaganda machine to wage an unprovoked war.
“More than political rhetoric, spin or occasional lying, this playbook uses coordinated networks — hundreds of websites, state-run media, social media channels, fake fact-checking and oppressive censorship laws — to disseminate ruthless falsehoods. The aim is to justify brutality, blindfold its citizens and persuade potential allies.”
Putin pointed to Ukrainian streets laden with bodies, saying it was evidence of Ukrainian’s government’s so-called genocide. He continued to push the narrative that Ukraine was never an independent country — despite worldwide recognition of such years ago — and that the people were just Russians wanting to be re-united with the motherland.
There’s plenty of carnage around the world to make the death of 67 journalists seem insignificant. But the work of those journalists often spread far and wide to make the truth stronger than the lies.
Support for journalists has never been more important. The free world depends on it.