Archive for July 23rd, 2011

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Statistical recording and national image‏

July 23, 2011

Following on rather nicely from yesterday’s post about benchmarks and getting behind the numbers and headlines, here is a very good example of how, depending upon the way it is recorded, a specific incident can have add or detract from a national image simply by the way it is recorded by the “international watchdogs”.

For those unfamiliar with a group called FEMEN, they are a group of ladies who have taken to making a bare breast of things when it comes to political protest. They started stripping off in public years ago to highlight sexual exploitation and Ukraine becoming a sex tourist hot-spot, but have since moved on to “getting them out” over seemingly almost any issue they can think of.

Unfortunately that rather detracts from their original protest message which has not been addressed given Ukraine still remains a hub for middle-aged western men looking the the kind of good looking women that would have no interest in them at home. (Needless to say the women here are also rarely interested either).

FEMEN however, have moved on, thus causing pause for thought as the whether they simply like “getting them out” and the attention it brings them as an organisation over and above any particular cause they protest over. Quite simply they do not seem to stick to a cause long enough to have any major effect.

Anyway the latest FEMEN protest was outside the Embassy of Georgia in Kyiv, over three photographers detained in Georgia ostensibly it seems, for spying, despite one being the President of Georgia’s personal photographer. During their protests, caught on video and camera, a security guard for the Georgian Embassy takes it upon himself to physically repel the media and FEMEN protesters from around the embassy.

The video of said incident is here and it has not been censored, so you lucky people get to see a couple of FEMEN girls in all their glory.

The incident brought a formal and public apology from the Georgian Ambassador to Ukraine for the assault on the journalists, as well as a written apology on the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. All very good and diplomatically correct as far as apologies public and private are concerned, as well as the dismissal of the offending security guard.

However, how will it be recorded? Where and who will this assault on journalists be attributed to by the chaps at Reporters Without Borders? Is it counted against Ukraine or Georgia?

Whilst it happened in Kyiv and is therefore Ukraine, the territory of the Embassy of Georgia is de facto Georgian soil. It did though happen in the street outside the Georgian Embassy, so where does that territory end?

Does the fact the security guard involved in this assault being employed by the Georgian Embassy provide any form of diplomatic immunity (as the US tried to claim for their rather wayward CIA contractor in Pakistan earlier in the year) or not? If it does, how will RWB record this when it is carried out by a security guard acting on behalf (even if wrongly and in an unacceptable way) of the Georgian Embassy? It certainly is the case that the nation of Georgia accepts responsibility.

Ukraine, after all, has nothing to do with the assault on the journalists in this particular instance. They were being allowed freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom to do their job without influence. The incident did occur in Ukraine (possibly depending on the technicalities of where Georgian sovereign de facto soil ends). The security guard may well have been Ukrainian or Georgian. The journalists and protesters were certainly Ukrainian.

Nevertheless, it would seem rather harsh for RWB to count this as an assault on the press in Ukraine within the statistics, as the circumstances will soon be forgotten or never known surrounding it by those simply looking at the numbers during the hype of the next statistics publication.

Ukraine, fairly justifiably, may feel aggrieved at the opaque slight that it would have on the Ukrainian nation. It has enough instances of its own without being statistically held responsible for incidents at the Georgian Embassy in Kyiv, a location like all Embassies and Consuls that Ukraine has little control over on a day to day basis. Attempts to do so would cause a major diplomatic incident of far more gravity than the incident that has actually happened.

Any reasonable person would expect it to count against Georgian statistics given the full and very public apology from the government of Georgia.

The question is, will it count against Georgia given it happened in Kyiv?

As I said in yesterday’s post, it is always necessary to get behind the numbers and headlines to understand how the “international bodies and watchdogs” reach their published and somewhat influential results.

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