Anti-Kremlin journalist defends faking own murder

KIEV: Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko on Thursday defended faking his own murder with the cooperation of the Ukrainian security services, after the shock operation was criticised by fellow reporters.
Kiev has come under fire after it admitted staging the killing in a bid to foil what it said was a real assassination plot by Moscow against the anti-Kremlin journalist.
Babchenko made a scarcely credible reappearance at a press conference in Kiev on Wednesday, more than 12 hours after the Ukrainian authorities reported he had been shot dead at his home in a contract-style killing.
“My goal was to stay alive and ensure the safety of my family. That is the first thing I am thinking about. Journalist standards are the last thing I am thinking about now,” the Russian said at a second press conference on Thursday.
After initial expressions of relief that Babchenko was alive, many fellow journalists have sharply criticised the staging of his death for undermining the credibility of the profession.
“Friends, I couldn’t care less. I don’t care whether you believe it next time… as when I’m dead it won’t matter to me anymore,” Babchenko replied.
The Kremlin earlier on Thursday said the story was “at the very least bizarre” and dismissed accusations that it had attempted to assassinate Babchenko.
Babchenko’s staged killing fooled the world’s media and led to press freedom groups raising fears about the impact it could have on the work of journalists around the globe.
Some said the staged death could only lead to more accusations of “fake news”, at a time when the distinction between credible and non-credible sources is becoming ever more crucial.
“By spreading false evidence about his murder, Ukrainian authorities have seriously eroded the credibility of information,” the president of the International Federation of Journalists, Philippe Leruth, said in a statement.
Reporters Without Borders described the faked assassination as a “pathetic stunt”.
An editorial in Russian daily Vedomosti argued that the Babchenko operation “blurred the border between truth and fiction” and would lead to more distrust of the media.
A number of Kremlin critics have been killed in Ukraine in recent years, with one gunned down on a Kiev street in broad daylight and another whose car exploded.