Sky News Stealth Edit Uncritical Story on ‘Chechen Jihadis’ in Ukraine

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Comcast-owned Sky News has stealth edited an uncritical article about “Chechen jihadis” fighting the Russians in Ukraine, heavily deemphasising their “jihadi” status.

In a bizarre article based on on-the-ground interviews with Chechens fighting alongside Ukrainian forces in the embattled Donbas city of Bakhmut, the British broadcaster highlighted a variety of weapons including suicide vests devised by the Muslim fighters, and their “hope they can one day take their holy war back to their homeland of Chechnya.”

As of the time of publication, the article is headlined The Chechen fighters taking on Putin’s ’empire of evil’ in Ukraine who say Russian troops are like ‘cattle for slaughter’ — but it was previously headlined The Chechen jihadis taking on Putin’s ’empire of evil’ in Ukraine who say Russian troops are like ‘cattle for slaughter’.

Other references to radical Islamism among the Chechens fighting for Ukraine have also been cut, with a single reference to the fact that “[a]s Muslims many of [the Chechens] regard their struggle with Moscow to be a jihad, or holy war” remaining but a reference to “a jihadi commander” being changed to refer merely to “a Chechen commander”, and a video caption describing fighters as “[t]he Chechen jihadis fighting Putin in Ukraine” now reading “[t]he Chechens fighting Putin in Ukraine”.

Why the tone of the article has been changed so markedly is unclear, because the changes have been made without any editor’s note or other explanatory text added to the article to explain them — a controversial practice known as stealth editing.

A video report uploaded to YouTube by Sky remains available, at least of the afternoon of December 24th, however, and retains the “jihadi” angle of earlier versions of the broadcaster’s written report.

Other references to the religious motivations of the Chechens, members of the  Sheikh Mansour Battalion, are retained, including descriptions of how they cry “Allahu Akbar” in battle and pray together.

Chechnya itself is a Muslim-majority autonomous republic of the Russian Federation, run by Ramzan Kadyrov, himself a former jihadi insurrectionist who later helped Moscow to bring the rebellious region to heel, and now runs it essentially as a personal fiefdom under President Vladimir Putin’s patronage.

Kadyrov has been a strong supporter of the war in Ukraine — although not, at times, its execution — and has, like the rebel Chechens volunteering with the Ukrainians, sought to cast to conflict in a religious light, with the Chechen mufti telling locals that backing the Russian war effort puts them “on the path of Allah”.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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