Western internet giants criticized for censuring Soviet WW2 deeds

18 Марта’21

Western internet giants are censuring the feat of Soviet soldiers in World War II, Nikolai Yefimovich, Chairman of the Broadcasting Organization of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, said at a press conference in Moscow on 18 March, BelTA has learned.

The reason for the press conference was the actions of the Google company. This week its YouTube video hosting has limited access to the documentary “Rzhev. 500 Days Under Fire” released by the BelRos TV channel. The film tells about one of the most tragic battles of the Great Patriotic War (near Rzhev that killed more than 1 million people) and about the Rzhev Memorial to Soviet Soldiers built under the patronage of the Union State and unveiled last summer with the participation of the presidents of Belarus and Russia, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin.

The film has been age-restricted. The video hosting has also removed the film from its recommendations and flagged it as inappropriate.

Rzhev. 500 Days Under Fire was premiered on 23 February, then it was uploaded to the BelRos official channel on YouTube. According to Nikolai Yefimovich, the number of daily views reached 20,000, which was very good for documentary content. The video hosting then imposed restrictions on the documentary. "We have a new generation who needs to know what the Great Patriotic War was. The film is designed for a young audience. We see it as the censorship of the feat of the Soviet soldiers," Nikolai Yefimovich said.

The position of the BelRos TV channel was supported by Russia's watchdog Roskomnadzor that has already demanded YouTube remove the restrictions. According to Nikolai Yefimovich, in its response to the watchdog Google explained that the restrictions were related to the bodies of the dead shown in the film. "Our film shows the war documentary chronicle. It is not a reenactment. Nothing is more emotional than the documentary evidence,” Nikolai Yefimovich noted.

The documentary “Rzhev. 500 Days Under Fire” shows dead bodies of soldiers only for a few seconds. The press conference showed shots from the BBC film about the landing of the Allied forces in Normandy which also depicted dead bodies. But the BBC film is in open access on YouTube.

“We have just watched the shots from the BBC film about landing of the Allied forces in Normandy. There are hundreds of such films that resemble a Hollywood blockbuster more than a documentary,” Chairman of the Board of the Belarusian Union of Journalists Andrei Krivosheyev commented. “It includes staged scenes that were shot with the intention to demonstrate the brutality and inhumanity of war and the tragic death of every soldier. Not a single one of such films (we have checked) has been censored. This is censorship. This is not just the 18+ age restriction. This hinders the film's promotion and makes it harder to find,” he added.

According to Andrei Krivosheyev, the reasons behind this move of Google and YouTube are obvious. “If the film had had 2,000-3,000 views, no one would have censored it. However, when the film started getting tens of thousands views, the moderators noticed it and decided to block it,” he believes. “The history of the Great Patriotic War is not a shocking content. This is the content that shapes the mindset and historical consciousness, this is the content that helps explain to young generations what our ancestors fought for and who we should thank for our existence,” Andrei Krivosheyev stressed.

More than 200 Russian media outlets have been recently blocked on YouTube with no explanation, Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Timur Shafir said. “They have started coming not only after journalists, but also after films, because they show the truth, the content that does not conform to the rules self-imposed by YouTube,” he noted.

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