Colonel Chepiga: who really identified the Skripal poisoner and why it matters | Vera Tolz

Where exactly does our news come from? And are those who unearth it getting fair credit? As media consumers, these are questions we should be asking on a regular basis.

Take the case of “Colonel Chepiga”. The BBC reported on September 27 that “Ruslan Boshirov”, one of the suspects accused by the UK government of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury is, apparently, a highly-decorated colonel of Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency named Anatoliy Chepiga. According to BBC News, the revelation was the result of the work of a British online citizen investigative journalistic site, Bellingcat – and the BBC interviewed its founder, Eliot Higgins.

Nothing was said in the BBC report, however, about the fact that the actual investigative work had been largely conducted by Bellingcat’s Russian collaborator – online citizen investigative journalism site, The Insider. For it was, in fact, The Insider’s founder, Roman Dobrokhotov, and another Russian, Moscow-based journalist, Sergei Kanev, who conducted hours of painstaking research of open online Russian-language sources to identify Boshirov-Chepiga.

In contrast to the BBC report, Bellingcat clearly acknowledged The Insider’s role in this investigation – and to be fair, on September 29, the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme broadcast an interview with Dobrokhotov, too. But the BBC’s original omission can tell us much about how many news outlets and journalists operate today.

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