Hunting the Buk, Ending Up With Jets

  By Eric van de Beek



BBC journalist Olga Ivshina produced a much-discussed report about MH17. She searched for people who had witnessed a BUK transport or missile launch. But all she found were fighter jet witnesses. And much more than were included in her report, a confidential document shows.


On 23 July 2014, six days after the crash of the Malaysian airliner, BBC Russian Service put an item on its website that almost instantly became the subject of rumours on the internet. In the item three women declare to have seen a fighter jet close to the moment when the Boeing fell to pieces. Another person, a militia commander, claims Ukrainian fighter jets are using passenger planes as a shield, to prevent the rebels from shooting them down.

Within a few hours after the BBC had uploaded the report, they took it offline. That's when the rumours began.


BBC censors itself?


Why did BBC delete the report by Olga Ivshina, the online community asked. Because the BBC team was unable to find any evidence that a rocket was launched in the area that the Ukrainian Security Service SBU alleges to be the place from which the rebels launched a BUK missile? Because all eyewitness interviewed by the BBC team indicated the presence of a Ukrainian military aircraft right beside MH17 at the time that it was shot down? Or because of a statement of a rebel commander about the Ukrainian air force using civilian airliners to protect its military jets from being shot at?


The day after the Ivshina report was removed, Jan Leder, managing editor of the BBC Russian Service, denied that the BBC had engaged in politically motivated censorship of eyewitness testimony. Leder declared that Ivshina’s report failed to meet BBC editorial standards because it lacked context, specifically the opinions of experts.


On 25 June the BBC uploaded a re-edited version. In this version a statement was included of a spokesperson of the Ukrainian military. He denied that the Ukrainian air force had been flying on the day MH17 came down. Another person who was added to the report, a British aviation expert, declared that it is highly unlikely jets would be using airliners as a shield.