Archive for July, 2009

20 July 2009

Georgia Update

The Daily Telegraph reports that the EU report on investigation of the Georgian war, due to be released on 31 July, has been delayed to the end of September. First paragraph:

European governments have postponed the publication of the Swiss-led investigation from July 31 to the end of September, amid fears of new tensions between Russia and Georgia in August, which marks the first anniversary of the Kremlin’s invasion.

“Kremlin invasion”. So the most appropriate category to classify the events of August 2008 are not “Goergia’s attack” but the Kremlin’s invasion. It seems quite clear what the report says. Second paragraph:

“No one wants to do anything that could raise the temperature in the region during a sensitive period. The Caucasus region is turbulent enough at the best of times. The investigators asked for more time and, frankly, that is convenient at a time when tensions in region are, naturally, high one year on from the conflict,” said one European diplomat.

No-one wants to do anything that could raise the temperature. Next paragraph:

Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, arrives in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, tomorrow to show that America continues to reject Russia’s claims of a “sphere of influence” over former Soviet republics.

No-one wants to do anything that could raise the temperature except the US vice-president? Next paragraph:

Divisions between European governments over how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Georgia – and Moscow’s de facto annexation of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – lie behind the EU report into the war.

Again, “Russia’s invasion” and “Moscow’s de facto annexation”.  Fourth graf:

Britain is less worried about who fired the first shots and mainly concerned with the principle of Russia occupying two regions of Georgian territory.

I am forever fascinated by the many different interpretations available for what principle is particularly relevant in any given conflict. Wonderful example of the flexibility of current times, current moral values, and current news reporting. Fifth paragraph:

Other countries, led by Germany, lean towards Russia’s claim that President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia fired the opening shots of the war and provoked the Kremlin’s invasion.

We note that it is only a “claim” that Russia is making. Sixth paragraph:

Early drafts of the EU report, leaked in Germany, have supported this view by suggesting that Georgia started the conflict. They suggest that Russian tanks entered Georgian territory only after Mr Saakashvili’s forces attacked the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

“Supported this view” (i.e. Russia’s claim); rather than the alternative possible phrases: “supported this understanding”, or “proved that” or “indicated that”, “showed that”, “found that” or even “suggested that”.

And the drafts “suggest” that Georgia started the conflict; they do not “indicate”, “show”, “find”, “state” or “ascertain” that Georgia started the conflict. So, although we are not actually interested in who fired the shots, the language chosen to describe the report’s findings is very provisional and distanced.

A final point on the structuring of news: the sixth (second last) paragraph is the one which tells readers the new news. Postponing a report is not generally assumed to be high in the newsworthiness stakes.