Claim: National Endowment for Democracy has funded the Chief Editor of The Kyiv Independent

Hi everyone! An article by a Conservative newspaper called Human Events alleges that the chief editor of the Kyiv Independent, Olga Rudenko, was part of an organisation (Media Development Foundation, or MDF) that has received funding from the US government via the NGO National Endowment for Democracy (or NED), and hence the paper is a compromised source. The article first states that:
In September 2021, a profile of the Independent’s chief editor, Olga Rudenko, appeared in ProMarket, a publication of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Rudenko was visiting the school for a journalism development program. According to ProMarket, she is also a board member at the Media Development Foundation, an NGO that has received at least $225,140 from the NED. You won’t find that without a digital archive because the NED’s records of funding projects in Ukraine was either moved or deleted recently.
So if we take a look at the first link, it takes us to the ProMarket website which does state in its about section that it is sponsored by the Stigler Center as a project against special interest groups. The linked article does mention Rudenko's membership at the MDF.

Now according to its own website, the MDF is a provider of courses to help develop the business and organisational skills of independent media outlets:
Media accelerators and courses for media managers aim to help independent media become sustainable by developing business skills, forming strategic plans as well as reviewing and optimizing their organizational structures, improving newsroom management through tech innovations and KPIs, maintaining the best mentors expertise in the region, connecting them with partners within the private and donor sector and providing funding for project implementation and mentors' support to launch/scale independent, sustainable media ecosystem with strong ethical and professional standards of journalism.
With that out of the way, the major claim of the MDF having received grants from the NED comes from this archived NED webpage on the grants it has awarded, which do mention the following MDF grants:
Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 5.58.59 pm.pngScreen Shot 2022-04-11 at 5.59.08 pm.pngScreen Shot 2022-04-11 at 5.59.16 pm.png
Which appears to confirm the claims of the Human Events article. It then cites an article by the socialist magazine Monthly Review (MR) that states that on the same day that this first archive was created, a second archive was created several hours after that showed an error message:
The archived webpage captured February 25, 2022 from 14:53 shows that NED granted $22,394,281 in the form of 334 awards to Ukraine between 2014 to the present. The capture at 23:10 the same day shows “No results found” for Ukraine. As of right now, there are still “No results found” for Ukraine.
It then claims that:
Additionally, the current database search criteria have been restricted, previously funding from 2014 to present could be searched, currently only 2017 to present is searchable per the drop-down menus. There are multiple news reports before February 25 corroborating this $22,394,281 amount.
Looking at the current grant search webpage of the NED as of now, compared to its archived version at Feb 25, it confirms the claims of MR.
Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 7.31.10 pm.png
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The implication of all this, to briefly summarise it, is that as the chief editor of the Kyiv Independent is part of an organisation that has received funding from a US government funded NGO called the NED, and as the current NED grant search page shows ''no results found'' for any grants on Ukraine, it must follow that the US is funding media favourable to it in Ukraine for its own agenda and is covering it up the funding trail in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, as why would such an alleged deletion occur so soon after the invasion?

However, not is all it seems, as pretty much all other nations, say India for example, also don't allow for searches prior to 2017:

Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 8.06.25 pm.png
The same still applies to even the countries that do show grant results, such as Brazil:
Screen Shot 2022-04-11 at 8.18.26 pm.pngScreen Shot 2022-04-11 at 8.18.35 pm.png
This is rather weird as if the NED wanted to cover up their funding record in Ukraine pre-2017, why do the same for every other nation?

This also isn't considering that in the same screenshots above, the NED states that the grant data is refreshed periodically to ensure that new awards are in the search. So this can serve as a potential explanation behind the absence of results for Ukraine as of now in the grant search.

So how would you make of this, as I'm no expert in these affairs? Does an organisation being funded by the NED necessarily means it's a puppet of the US government?
 

Oystein

Senior Member
Well, one could look at other news organizations in other countries that have received grants from the NED and try to determine whether they act as puppets of the US government.

Of which US government, anyway? The three grants listed all fall into the Trump administration.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
hence the paper is a compromised source
That's the unsupported logical step.

It'd be reasonable to suspect that the editor (and hence the paper) may have a pro-Western bias; and then I'd want to put in some legwork and show this via its actual published articles.

But "compromised" is a scandal-mongering word, clickbait, and suggests something not supported by the evidence. That's the part of the claim that's probably utter bunk.

The real problem here is that some people seem to be unable to draw a distinction between bias and factuality, and that has been obvious since the Trump inauguration's "alternate facts": the belief that both sides are making it up as they go, since their side no longer connects to reality, so they assume the other side doesn't, either. For these people, "biased" and "compromised" mean the same.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
Non-story on two counts.

1. Long ago Human Events was a legitimate newspaper. It ceased publication as a print newspaper in 2014, and was sold. The name is really the only thing that survives. It's now just a fringe online thing.

[Editor in Chief Jack] Posobiec is known for his pro-Donald Trump comments on Twitter, as well as using white supremacist and antisemitic symbols and talking points, including the white genocide conspiracy theory.[14][15][16][17] He has repeatedly planted false and derogatory claims about political figures in an effort to damage his opponents. He has promoted fake news, including the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory claiming high-ranking Democratic Party officials were involved in a child sex ring.[18] From 2018 to 2021, Posobiec was employed by One America News Network (OANN), a far-right cable news television channel, as a political correspondent and on-air presenter.[9] He left OANN in May 2021 to begin hosting a show for the conservative student organization Turning Point USA, and to join conservative news site Human Events as a senior editor.

2. Even if this story were substantially true... I'd say, "Good. That's what we should do. The Ukrainians are the Good Guys trying to get the truth out there. We should help them."

It would just be a case of pro-Russian Authoritarians putting a spin on this in furtherance of their pro-Russian/pro-Authoritarian agenda. Like Lord Haw-Haw "accusing" us of helping the Polish underground during WWII.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
The real problem here is that some people seem to be unable to draw a distinction between bias and factuality, and that has been obvious since the Trump inauguration's "alternate facts": the belief that both sides are making it up as they go, since their side no longer connects to reality, so they assume the other side doesn't, either. For these people, "biased" and "compromised" mean the same.
That's the unsupported logical step.
 
That's the unsupported logical step.

It'd be reasonable to suspect that the editor (and hence the paper) may have a pro-Western bias; and then I'd want to put in some legwork and show this via its actual published articles.

But "compromised" is a scandal-mongering word, clickbait, and suggests something not supported by the evidence. That's the part of the claim that's probably utter bunk.

The real problem here is that some people seem to be unable to draw a distinction between bias and factuality, and that has been obvious since the Trump inauguration's "alternate facts": the belief that both sides are making it up as they go, since their side no longer connects to reality, so they assume the other side doesn't, either. For these people, "biased" and "compromised" mean the same.
So even if an editor of a news outlet was part of an organisation funded by an NGO funded by the US congress, it can only be inferred that they likely have a pro-US and/or pro-West bias, but not that they're actually a one to one mouthpiece of the US government unless further evidence can prove it. Is that what you're saying?

I also realise that if an outlet has a good track record when it comes to factuality, then it ultimately does not matter that they might have received funding from the US government by proxy.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
So even if an editor of a news outlet was part of an organisation funded by an NGO funded by the US congress, it can only be inferred that they likely have a pro-US and/or pro-West bias, but not that they're actually a one to one mouthpiece of the US government unless further evidence can prove it. Is that what you're saying?
Yes.

For example, look at the members of Congress: all of the 435 members are not only directly funded by Congress, they are the Congress. Are they "mouthpieces of the US government"?
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
If /Kyiv Independent/ is tainted because of Olga Rudenko then /Human Events/ is vastly more tainted because of Jack Posobiec who has a proven record of spouting far right and conspiracy theory nonsense even broader than the few examples in Z.W. Wolf's copy-paste - he's wrapped up in all the StopTheSteal nonsense too, and CoViD-related bunk too. Post-Floyd pipe bombs too, IIRC. He is pretty much the posterchild for fake news in the USA.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
claimed examples. Don't get me wrong, the guy looks like a weasel...but this is Metabunk and claims are just claims.
And that copy-paste is wikipedia, and these claims are sourced. Does anyone doubt that Posobiec supported Pizzagate, white supremacy, and anti-semitism?
add P.S. the article was an opinion piece written by Pedro L. Gonzalez.
... and the article proposes judging a news outlet by its chief editor's past.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Article:
The archived page shows that from 2014 to the present, the NED has granted $22,394,281 through 334 awards to Ukraine. However, since the change, the NED only allows users to search back to 2017.


i dont see any entries for 2014. 2016 is the latest i see.

edit add: link to archive page.
and these claims are sourced.
i clicked two that aren't lefty and i only saw claims in the sources too. i tried googling him looking for archived tweets that people love to screen grab but didnt see any. (i only spent like 5 mins looking though).

the article proposes judging a news outlet by its chief editor's past.
i dont see where he is chief editor. just saying.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
i clicked two that aren't lefty and i only saw claims in the sources too. i tried googling him looking for archived tweets that people love to screen grab but didnt see any. (i only spent like 5 mins looking though).

Tweets can be deleted. Both by Twitter themself, and by Jack if he regrets what he's said.
This website seems to be implying (at 30 tweets per page) that he's had well over 8000 deleted tweets: https://polititweet.org/tweets?account=592730371&deleted=True


1
2
3
4
5

276
277
Content from External Source
Good luck finding anything in a haystack that big. Warning - search doesn't seem to work.
 
"Does an organisation being funded by the NED necessarily means it's a puppet of the US government?" No, and the same with NED. Just because an NGO receives government funding doesn't make it a "puppet".

Puppet's definition " one whose acts are controlled by an outside force or influence" specifies "controlled". Most government funded NGOs are not controlled, they are influenced. As such, they are not "puppets". That does not mean there are some limited facets of control, so that could create some fair debate about what extent changes it exactly.

There is also some terminology with regard to specific levels of relationship with a nation state, that being State Affiliated and State Aligned. State affiliated meaning that they are literally connected with the government in some form, and state aligned meaning their goals and activities simply align with a state actor who may influence or exploit them (a common example being cyber criminals who're co-opted for certain Cyber Network Operations by nation state actors). There is also State-Controlled, meaning literal control (what a puppet would be).

Even if it were legitimate, I'd think one is not affiliated or aligned just by interacting with another who is, unless the relationship explicitly regards that affiliation or alignment.
 
Going back to the Human Events article, it cites this report by Declassified UK which claims that Bellingcat & Reuters were funded by the NED, the implication being that they're untrustworthy owing to a conflict of interests:
A recent report published by Declassified UK noted that the NED paid out more than $3 million between 2016 and 2021 to outlets like Bellingcat and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Echoing Weinstein, a former CIA officer told Declassified that the NED is a “vehicle” for U.S. government “propaganda.”
Looking at the report, we get to the relevant section on Bellingcat. It first claims that it has been funded by the NED in 2017:
The UK organisation Bellingcat, which is known mainly for its investigations of Russian secret service operations, has been funded by the NED since at least 2017.
The source is this tweet from Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, where he admits likewise. Declassified then claims that Bellingcat received NED funding in 2020:
The group is registered as a foundation in the Netherlands and its 2020 accounts show it received €112,524 (£94,000) from the NED that year, making the US agency one of Bellingcat’s largest institutional funders. What appears to be another NED grant is also referenced in the accounts, but the amount is not divulged.
It cites the annual accounts of Bellingcat for 2020. And the screenshots appear to confirm this:
Screen Shot 2022-04-23 at 11.02.39 pm.png

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It then claims that Bellingcat listed the NED as a donor in its 2019 annual report:
Bellingcat’s 2019 accounts declare no grants from the NED, but its annual report from the same year lists the US agency as a “donor”. Declassified could not find accounts from previous years.
And this screenshot from the report mostly confirms it:
Screen Shot 2022-04-26 at 1.41.55 am.png
However, it just as well could be the case that though the NED is a donor, it didn't donate in that specific year.

The article then goes on to mention other things about how the head of Bellingcat was a fellow of the Atlantic Council, and how it is funded by the US State Dept. and how its head had senior roles at the US Embassy in Baghdad etc... But I'm kinda tired.

So are the conclusions drawn or implied correct?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Bellingcat
I'm using the resources described in https://www.metabunk.org/threads/media-bias.11554/ and find this for Bellingcat:
Article:
SmartSelect_20220425-200216_Samsung Internet.jpg
These media sources have a slight to moderate liberal bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by appealing to emotion or stereotypes) to favor liberal causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information but may require further investigation. See all Left-Center sources.

Overall, we rate Bellingcat Left-Center biased based on story selection and positions that moderately favor the left. We also rate them Mostly Factual for reporting due to proper sourcing.; however, they have a false claim that resulted in a lawsuit.

[...]

In 2021, Bellingcat was successfully sued for defamation [Former separatist leader Igor Bezler successfully sues Bellingcat over MH17 investigations]. In general, information on the website is mostly factual, well-sourced, and holds a moderate left-leaning bias.

Failed Fact Checks
None in the Last 5 years. In fact, they are used as a resource for fact-checkers.

Personally, I'm treating Bellingcat as US-aligned news source, and would seek corroboration for reports, or examine the evidence closely, because I have seen claims like this (not fact checked):
Article:
This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research.
I don't think they fake evidence, but I'd want to make sure that they're not presenting only one side of the story.
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
So are the conclusions drawn or implied correct
Re: the Thomson Reuters Foundation, any conclusions extended to Reuters the news company would be incorrect. As a charity, any funds given to the foundation can't be converted into earnings for the news company, so there can't be influence in that direction.
Article:
Thomson Reuters Foundation is a London-based charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, a Canadian news conglomerate.[2] The Foundation is registered as a charity in the United States and United Kingdom and is headquartered in Canary Wharf, London.[3]
Wikipedia has a good summary of the past activities of this foundation.

Article:
We are the corporate foundation of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information services company. As an independent charity, registered in the UK and the USA, we work to advance media freedom, foster more inclusive economies, and promote human rights. Through news, media development, free legal assistance, and convening initiatives, we combine our unique services to drive systemic change.

Comparing this mission statement with that of NED, there's considerable overlap. It seems obvious why NED selects the Thomson Reuters Foundation for grants.
Article:
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 2,000 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 100 countries.

Since its founding in 1983, the Endowment has remained on the leading edge of democratic struggles everywhere, while evolving into a multifaceted institution that is a hub of activity, resources and intellectual exchange for activists, practitioners and scholars of democracy the world over.
 
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